cocaine

ODESNIK DRAGS TENNIS IN THE MUD

So another tennis star has found themselves on the front pages of newspapers linked to the now menacing black cloud hanging over the sport in recent years – “drugs.”

Richard Gasquet “snogging” cocaine in to his system, Agassi’s admittance of crystal meth use, Greg Rusedski’s positive testing for nandrolone, the two Belgians – Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse – and their dances with the anti-doping board about missed tests.

Recent years have seen tennis’ relatively clean image dragged further through the mud when it comes to naughty substances and they seem to have rivaled the ever-guilty world of athletics in cases rising to the surface.

American Wayne Odesnik’s case is slightly different of course. He hasn’t actually failed a doping test. Yet he was caught trying to smuggle human growth hormone (HGH) in to Australia and has been fined by their courts.

The world No. 111, 24 years of age, hasn’t actually been banned from playing but has now self-imposed a playing ban until his independent tribunal is held within the coming months. He is free to pick up his racquet at any time should he choose to.

Odesnik was halted by Australian customs on January 2 as he was arriving to compete in the Brisbane International and he was fined Aus$8,000 for his trouble. Eight vials holding around 6mg each of the banned substance were found in his belongings.

The Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) possesses a whole host of powers for banning players coming up positive for taking substances, but has little to no powers against those found holding a substance. By taking a voluntary ban it might favor him in terms of punishment come his tribunal.

The one major question coming out of this is, as always, why? Why do players find it necessary to jeopardize their livelihood with the use of such substances? Is it desperation to succeed? To be remembered for more than being the world No. 111? He was world No. 77 this time last year, does he wish to stop the slide? Is it a drive for financial reward as your career draws on? A chance to make those later years even more comfortable?

Recreational drugs pose different answers. Perhaps an ego and a love of the “party hard” lifestyle. But doping always leaves brows furrowed. I suppose it’s easy for people like us outside of the sport to sit here and judge. “How could he? There are thousands of kids who’d love to be in his position…” blah blah blah.

We don’t know first-hand the pressures of playing top class tennis every other week. With a calendar stretching over the eleven-month boundary now perhaps players are finding it harder to keep up. It’s slightly easier on the body for the top 10 in the world who can afford to miss the ATP250s to recuperate as the points gained won’t harm them.

But for those chasing the pack just how long can their bodies go on as the sport becomes quicker and more physically demanding every year? You now have to serve harder, move about the court more often and produce tenacious shots one minute and powerful cross-court drives the next. The sport has even transformed in the fifteen years I have been following it.

This isn’t new of course. Looking back through recent history you can go back to 1999 to remember Czech star Petr Korda’s run-ins with the authorities over his use of nandrolone alongside sprinters and footballers the world over. Rusedski’s later positive testing in 2004 led to revelations of an unnamed 44 players having used the drug. How we’d love to know who they were.

The Men’s Tennis Council began testing in the 1980s and their early studies looked for use of recreational drugs. However over recent times performance enhancing substances have risen to the forefront of most scandals and this is perhaps the more saddening aspect.

You can perhaps forgive the likes of Hingis and Capriati, young protégés given little guidance over such important life lessons like growing up and maturing. Given the wrong influence by the wrong people they can easily fall in to the wrong lifestyle and their dalliances with drugs shows how easy it really is. The story is the same throughout every sport. Youngsters earning vast amounts of money and with no idea how to spend it.

Odesnik shows how these performance enhancing substances are still an issue and the punishments put in place by the anti-doping agencies are still not enough to deter players.

Would they think twice if a lifetime ban was threatened? Would more severe punishments really flush out the “bad eggs” and stop players turning to superficial help once and for all rather than coaches and training?

“For possession there’s a possible two-year ban,” said an ITF spokeswoman back in March. Is this enough?

American No. 1 Andy Roddick certainly didn’t think so. “There’s nothing worse than that,” he said back at the Sony Ericsson Open when the story first broke. “That’s just plain cheating, and they should throw him out of tennis. There’s just no room for it.”

But he certainly didn’t think the authorities were to blame: “We have the most stringent drug-testing policies in sports,” he said. “We’re up there with the Olympics. We can’t take Sudafed.” While the tests are in place perhaps the severe punishments are not.

And what of Odesnik’s coach, Argentina’s former top 10 player Guillermo Canas? He himself failed a doping test in 2005 and served a fifteen month ban. His silence coupled with Odesnik’s self-imposed ban speaks volumes of the guilt.

It really is a problem which tennis should not have to face but it does time and again. Until new, possibly more severe, sanctions are threatened it will continue to do so too.

FORMER NUMBER ONE MARTINA HINGIS GOT HERSELF ENGAGED!

Today we received word that former tennis queen Martina Hingis got herself engaged to Andreas Bieri, a lawyer from Zurich. According to Swiss newspaper Blick.ch Hingis told the press Andreas proposed to her a day before Christmas and that she was over the moon with the proposal.

Hingis moved in with Andreas last summer in Hurden.

Hingis was the number of the WTA tour for 209 weeks in a row. Has won a record of 43 titles which includes five Grand Slam titles.

Hingis was forced to retire due to injury in 2002 and made a succesful comeback in 2006.  Her succes didn’t last long as she was banned for two years after a doping test found traces of cocaine in her blood.

Nowadays Hingis models for Elite,  a leading modeling agency who also have the likes of Gisele Bundchen under contract amongst other stars.

Hingis still has loyal support of her fans who are all in full support of her upcoming marriage.

A fan, who goes by the name of Lois, showed her support by saying the following:

Congratulations! This is the news I’ve been waiting to hear since they decided to live together. I’m sure Martina will still be “busy” with other things but at 29 it’s time for her to marry and hopefully start a family. Certainly Federer has embraced marriage and fatherhood with great “gusto” so the ultimate goal would be for Martina to be a mother someday, she has said herself many times she would welcome children into her life so now she will have a chance for fulfillment and contentment. Best Wishes to the happy couple! – By Lois

Let’s hope that Hingis and her Andreas will live happily ever after.

MARTINA HINGIS: SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND

I woke up this morning, enjoying my cup of tea, reading the sports news on Yahoo! when a headline caught my eye. Martina Hingis to play the World Team Tennis. I was baffled by this news. I have been a fan of Hingis since 1998. When she won, we won. When she lost, we lost. When she cried, I usually turned off my tv or switched channels.  But Hingis won a lot. She continued to win.  Held top ranking on the WTA Tour for 209 weeks in a row.

And then came the sad news that she was forced to retire.

We wouldn’t be able to enjoy her marvelous tactical game that graced the courts anymore. We wouldn’t be able to get into chat rooms and cheer her on as any Hingis fan would. Or post on forums, from results to opinions. We panicked, who would we cheer on now?  There is no greater champion than her.

With her gone, I lost interest in the WTA Tour for a while. There was nobody to cheer for in my opinion. The WTA Tour felt dead, black and empty without her.

Until November 29, 2005.  That was the day Hingis announced her return to the tour.  Fans and pundits worldwide cheered her come back.  The media frenzy that followed made sure that there was no way around letting you know that the “Swiss Miss” was back on the tour.

The chatrooms were filled again with fans. People who kept live scores  updated us throughout the matches that followed.  And new friends were made.  This went on for about a year and a half.

It was great to be part of the community again.

Then on November 1, 2007  Hingis announced her second retirement from the game. She failed a drug test as cocaine was detected in her system. She denied the allegations but was banned by the ITF for two years. Two years would pretty much be the end of her career. According to a lot of fans.  While the chatrooms ran empty, the forums were less visited we never forgot the one player who made us smile when she smiled.

So today I open my browser, drink my tea and read that Hingis will make a return to World Team Tennis tour. I am baffled.

She told the press that she has watched a lot of Australian Open this year.

“Of course it makes you think. Tennis was all my life, and the most natural thing is that it makes you think. It would be sad if it didn’t make me think, don’t you think?” Hingis said.

“Tennis is still my life. Well, part of it,” she continued. “But my life is very comfortable, on the other hand. Tennis gave me a lot of things and sometimes you have to put things behind. It’s a lot of sacrifice, as well. I wouldn’t want to risk it anymore.”

When asked what she missed the most about tennis she replied with the following:

“What I miss is probably … the winning moments—when you hold up the trophy and you know you are the best in the world and you end up winning Grand Slams. That is probably the moment an athlete is most happy,” Hingis said.

“You miss that, but you know that getting to that point takes a lot of years, a lot of hard work, a lot of practice. It doesn’t come from heaven,” she added. “You never forget how much work, how much pain, you go through to get there.”

Now let’s hope that she hungers for those moments and makes a return to the tour. If Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin can do it then why not her?

GASQUET TOPS LOPEZ; MAYER SAVES FIVE MATCH POINTS

Richard Gasquet and Leonardo Mayer had salient wins on the opening day of the MediBank International in Sydney Monday. Gasquet, in his full comeback from battling cocaine drug charges last year, beat Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4, while Mayer saved two match points in beating Igor Andreev 6-7(7) 6-3 7-6(4).

Gasquet extended his head-to-head record to 5-0 against the Spanish Davis Cup star. “I played well last year with semi-final in this tournament, so I’m happy to be here and to win the first match.” said Gasquet.

Mayer, from Argentina, handed Andreev his fifth defeat in a row in a final set tie-break and his fifth defeat after wasting match points in last 13 months.

In Auckland at the Heineken Open, only three matches were played on Monday. In one of them, hometown pupil, Jose (Rubin) Statham won his first career ATP match beating fellow New Zealander King-Turner 6-2 7-5.

The Friday Five – Marat the Enigma

By Maud Watson

Farewell, Marat! – In a city that he loved, and at a tournament where he had always enjoyed great success, Marat Safin played his last professional match at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.  He lost to current US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro in a tight three-set struggle that featured vintage Marat Safin, with smiles, cries of anguish, and yes, a broken racquet. Having won two Grand Slam singles titles, achieving the No. 1 ranking, and winning the Davis Cup, Safin accomplished more in his career than most players ever will. Despite these accolades, however, many critics have called him an underachiever. For the amount of talent Safin has, maybe those critics are right…but then again, his erratic play is what made him the enigma that is Marat Safin.  And that enigma has been a fan favorite wherever he went. Because at the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether or not Safin was playing top-flight tennis. What mattered was that he treated it like a game. He let you know what he was feeling, he was brutally honest on and off the court, and he always had a certain charm and wit about him. Marat Safin broke the mold, he will be missed, and he should be congratulated on a successful career.

Loose Lips – Within the next month, Frenchman Richard Gasquet will learn whether or not he’ll be serving a longer ban from tennis for testing positive for cocaine. Earlier this year, Gasquet served a 2 ½-month ban when he tested positive for the recreational drug, a substance he alleged entered his body when he kissed a woman in a nightclub who supposedly had cocaine in her system. Hopefully Gasquet’s case will be decided on its own merits, and not on pressure put on the CAS to make up for what happened with Agassi 12 years ago.

Stop the Madness – It would seem that the WTA and the ATP Tours have finally said enough is enough when it comes meting out punishments relating to doping in tennis. The reason for this chatter stems from the fact that Belgians Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse have each been handed a one-year ban for violating WADA’s “whereabouts” rule, which has long been considered one of the sport’s most controversial rules. As Stacey Allaster, the new WTA Chairman and CEO explained, it’s difficult for players to tell WADA three months in advance where they will be for one hour out of each day during competition, as they don’t know when their match will be scheduled, when they will practice, etc. It’s murder on the players, and it’s a joke that a player can lose an entire year of his or her career without even testing positive for any banned substance.

Molto Bene – In all the hullabaloo of the Agassi interview on 60 Minutes, the fact that Italy defeated the U.S. in the Fed Cup final was lost.  Hats off to Italy who claimed just their second Fed Cup title since the competition began in 1963.  Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone are putting Italian tennis back on the map, and for Pennetta, who earlier this year became the first Italian female to reach the Top 10, it was the perfect way to cap off a stellar year.

It’s On! – In a dramatic day three at the Paris Masters, Rafael Nadal saved five match points to advance to the third round, while Roger Federer suffered a shock loss to elated Frenchman Julien Benneteau.  Federer’s early loss coupled with the fact that Nadal can only gain points at the ATP World Tour Finals means that the year-end No. 1 ranking is still up for grabs.  Who says that there isn’t a little bit of excitement at the end of a long tennis season?

Nadal returns, beats Gasquet, at US Open

Everyone’s been curious about the condition of Rafael Nadal’s knees, so it made sense that his first Grand Slam opponent in three months would wonder as well.

Which might explain why Richard Gasquet tried a drop shot deep in the third set of his U.S. Open match against Nadal on Wednesday. Nadal made the long run necessary to get to the ball, and flipped it back over the net, winning the point.

A moment later, as if conspiring with Nadal to show everyone how fit the six-time major champion truly is these days, Gasquet offered up another drop shot.

Nadal got to that one, too.

Starting a bid to win the only Grand Slam title missing from his resume, Nadal encountered no apparent trouble from his much-scrutinized legs in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Gasquet at Flushing Meadows.

Gasquet, for one, was impressed.

“He can win the tournament,” said Gasquet, a 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist and former top-10 player. “Day after day, he will improve his level. For sure, he can win.”

Nadal’s matter-of-fact assessment: “I played well, no?”

Nadal didn’t wear any tape near his knees Wednesday, something he’s done in the past, much less the sort of bulky bandages Venus Williams showed up with near her left knee for a second-round match she won easily.

One could certainly make the case Nadal wasn’t facing the toughest competition. Gasquet has been away from the tour, too, recently. He served a 2 1/2 -month ban after testing positive for cocaine; Gasquet successfully appealed what would have been a far more severe punishment, saying the drug entered his system inadvertently when he kissed a woman at a nightclub.

Nadal’s absence was far more run-of-the-mill. He hadn’t played at a major tournament since May 31, when his 31-match French Open winning streak ended in the fourth round at Roland Garros. The Spaniard cited knee tendinitis in deciding not to defend his Wimbledon title, and the layoff was a big reason Nadal has dropped from No. 1 in the rankings to No. 3.

He ceded the top spot to Roger Federer, whose bid for a sixth consecutive U.S. Open championship—and third Grand Slam title in a row this year— progressed with a 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Simon Greul of Germany in front of a night-session record crowd of 24,206.

Next for Federer is a matchup against two-time major winner Lleyton Hewitt, who defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Federer has won 13 matches in a row against Hewitt, including in the 2004 U.S. Open final.

Williams, the 2000-01 champion in New York, had wide patches of white tape above and below her left knee, which began bothering her when she struggled through a first-round win Monday. Like Nadal, Williams looked hale Wednesday, and she easily dispatched Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 6-4, 6-2.

“She was moving like a cat,” Mattek-Sands said.

Nadal never mentioned his knee issues publicly until after the French Open, but he said Wednesday the pain dated to April, when he won the Monte Carlo Masters. He also won the next week, and the week after that, but he now attributes that success to “being on a roll.”

The recent time off means he has played a lot less than he’s accustomed to by this time in the season, which is a benefit at the last Grand Slam event of the year. He’s never been past the semifinals in New York.

“I am more fresh, yeah. Fresher than ever in this tournament. I don’t know if this kind of fresh is good,” he said. “No excuses about being very tired.”

Still, Nadal finds it amusing that there has been so much discussion about his knees and his time away from the tour.

“Seems like I was two years outside of competition,” he said. “It was two months.”

Kim Clijsters was away for two years, having ended her retirement in August, and she continues to play as if she never left. Unseeded and unranked and playing at the U.S. Open for the first time since winning the 2005 title, the 26-year-old Belgian reached the third round by knocking off No. 14-seeded Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

Other seeded women sent home included No. 15 Samantha Stosur, a French Open semifinalist, who was beaten by Vania King of Long Beach, Calif., 7-5, 6-4; two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo, who lost to Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada; No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 20 Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Two fixtures on the men’s tour said goodbye to Grand Slam tennis with first-round exits: Marat Safin of Russia and Fabrice Santoro of France, who are retiring at the end of the season.

The 29-year-old Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, lost to Jurgen Melzer of Austria 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; the 36-year-old Santoro, appearing in his record 69th major tournament, was beaten by No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Safin won two Grand Slam titles and briefly was ranked No. 1. There are those—including Melzer, after Wednesday’s match—who wonder aloud whether Safin’s talent could have taken him to a half-dozen major championships or more.

One person who doesn’t worry about that? Safin.

“I don’t regret anything at all. Things that happened to me throughout the life, whatever I said, whatever I did—it took me to where I am right now,” Safin said. “So I think it was pretty nice ride.”

Gasquet Cleared, Party Kiss Transferred Cocaine

LONDON (AP) — Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban Wednesday when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine.
The 23-year-old Frenchman, who was cleared to resume playing after completing a 2 1/2-month ban Wednesday, convinced an independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine by kissing a woman he met at a nightclub in Miami.
The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than “a grain of salt” of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice in a case which was “unusual to the point of being probably unique.”
“We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal said in its ruling.
The ITF, which had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, was told to impose a retroactive ban of two months, 15 days. The ban ended Wednesday morning, clearing 32nd-ranked Gasquet to resume playing.
Gasquet tested positive in a urine sample in March after he pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, with a shoulder injury.
After deciding to withdraw from the tournament he went to a nightclub with friends to see a French DJ perform at a Miami dance music festival, which the tribunal noted was “notoriously associated with use of illegal recreational drugs including cocaine.”
Gasquet told the tribunal hearing held in London last month that he kissed a woman, identified in the ruling only as “Pamela.”
The tribunal said it was likely she had consumed cocaine during the night, though it had no direct evidence.
Gasquet was “on the balance of probability, contaminated with cocaine by Pamela” and, therefore, not significantly at fault for the doping offense, the ruling said.
“We take into account that the amount of cocaine in the player’s body was so small that if he had been tested only a few hours later, his test result would be likely to have been negative,” the tribunal stated.
Gasquet also argued at the hearing that his positive test was given after he had pulled out of the Key Biscayne tournament. Cocaine is a banned drug for athletes in competition.
The tribunal said Gasquet’s rights to practice his profession would be infringed by a one-year suspension, though it was required to find that a doping offense was committed.
It also noted that Gasquet would be banned for life if he tested positive for a banned drug a second time.
The ruling allowed the Frenchman to keep the ranking points and prize money he gained at tournaments in April.
The ITF provisionally suspended Gasquet when the test result was announced in May and he was forced to miss the French Open and Wimbledon. His ranking has since dropped nine places.
The ruling can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within three weeks.

LONDON (AP) — Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban Wednesday when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine.

The 23-year-old Frenchman, who was cleared to resume playing after completing a 2 1/2-month ban Wednesday, convinced an independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine by kissing a woman he met at a nightclub in Miami.

The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than “a grain of salt” of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice in a case which was “unusual to the point of being probably unique.”

“We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal said in its ruling.

The ITF, which had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, was told to impose a retroactive ban of two months, 15 days. The ban ended Wednesday morning, clearing 32nd-ranked Gasquet to resume playing.

Gasquet tested positive in a urine sample in March after he pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, with a shoulder injury.

After deciding to withdraw from the tournament he went to a nightclub with friends to see a French DJ perform at a Miami dance music festival, which the tribunal noted was “notoriously associated with use of illegal recreational drugs including cocaine.”

Gasquet told the tribunal hearing held in London last month that he kissed a woman, identified in the ruling only as “Pamela.”

The tribunal said it was likely she had consumed cocaine during the night, though it had no direct evidence.

Gasquet was “on the balance of probability, contaminated with cocaine by Pamela” and, therefore, not significantly at fault for the doping offense, the ruling said.

“We take into account that the amount of cocaine in the player’s body was so small that if he had been tested only a few hours later, his test result would be likely to have been negative,” the tribunal stated.

Gasquet also argued at the hearing that his positive test was given after he had pulled out of the Key Biscayne tournament. Cocaine is a banned drug for athletes in competition.

The tribunal said Gasquet’s rights to practice his profession would be infringed by a one-year suspension, though it was required to find that a doping offense was committed.

It also noted that Gasquet would be banned for life if he tested positive for a banned drug a second time.

The ruling allowed the Frenchman to keep the ranking points and prize money he gained at tournaments in April.

The ITF provisionally suspended Gasquet when the test result was announced in May and he was forced to miss the French Open and Wimbledon. His ranking has since dropped nine places.

The ruling can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within three weeks.

Cut Richard Gasquet Some Slack

 As you know by now, French player Richard Gasquet has been suspended for testing positive for cocaine back in Miami this spring.  I am by no means suggesting drug use is appropriate, only that this punishment seems a little harsh for him.

How many athletes use drugs or alcohol off season when they aren’t being tested, when they are away from the public eye?  That’s right.  You can claim they probably don’t.  Honestly, you don’t know what people, these role models, are doing around the end of tournament season.  All we know of these players is how they conduct themselves at press conferences.

Worse, why is there a double standard in sports that partying with alcohol is given a “cool” pass while drugs are “bad?”  For anyone wanting to make the argument about being a good role model for kids, I want to hear your side on why overdoing alcohol is acceptable for NBA and MLB stars at the same time when Michael Phelps gets grilled in the media over one pot incident, possibly losing huge sponsors.

Hollywood actors can make comebacks after a few stints in rehab and if Britney can return with a concert tour, come on, give Richard Gasquet a chance.  I personally would have banned the guy from a few tournaments until he cleans up his act.  Keep in mind, this is a young man who probably spends most of his life not acting his age to become a top player.  Cut him a break and see if he can keep his promises.  If by then, he is still doing drugs, that is when you need to think about long term bans.