Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tennis prepares for doping

Seems that since my last (long ago) post, I have been reading more and more about tennis players and doping. Part of this may be that I am catching up on my tennis news through back issues of Tennis that my dad saved for me (thanks, Dad!) and let me take over Christmas. Years in reviews and predictions for next year all mention doping at some point--who will get caught perhaps, how the tours will deal with it, some speculation that it is already rampant but very hush hush (how anything can be hush hush in our media and celebrity crazed Western society though is cause for speculation in itself). So it's definitely on the tennis radar.
So much so that people are starting to make money off it already. A British-based company is selling sport drinks, bars, gels and the like to tennis players promising them the products will not be tainted with banned substances. They have taken super duper precautions to promise customers (banned) substance-free supplements including individual packaging which is encoded in such a way that the product within can be traced back to the original batch from whence it came in case of a positive test.
The whole thing seems weird to me, but of course I have no expertise in doping. Part of the weirdness is that the client list is top secret. Apparently many of the top players on the ATP are customers. Why is knowing this a problem? I don't think it implies that previous to their use of said company's products they were downing tainted supplements all the time. And if the point of this company is to make the lives of players positive test worry-free then why wouldn't you let on who is savvy enough to use your product?
And what's this got to do with gender? Well using this lens through which to examine the situation I find it very interesting that the little piece I read on this in the Nov/Dec issue of Tennis mentions only the ATP players. Granted this was published before the revelation that Sesil Karatantcheva turned in a positive test (maybe). But still it seems problematic that only male players and doping are being used in the same breath. Sure it was ATP trainers allegedly responsible (inadvertently of course) for supplying some players, including Greg Rusedski, tainted supplements, but this situation is just as likely to occur on the WTA tour. Track and field has accepted that women too want to be competitive and will go to the same destructive lengths as men to do so. Tennis, so mired in and married to historical constructions of masculinity and femininity needs to realize this as well. Perhaps the Karatantcheva incident will open some eyes.
And finally, one more prediction, or rather wish for the coming year: that this "but I didn't know what I was taking--someone just gave it to me" excuse will fade away like all falsely constructed facades. It's a sophomoric excuse and tennis needs to see beyond it and deal with this predicted doping onslaught.

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