Category Archives: Performance Enhancing Drugs

Martina Hingis and Roger Clemens handle drug accusations slightly differently.

When Martina Hingis tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon last year she called the accusation “horrendous” and “monstrous” then promptly retired. She did have a hair test to prove that she never took the white stuff but it was too little too late.

I just faxed the results of a hair test to my doctor. A hair test tells me what minerals I’m missing – plenty – and what toxins are in my body. My test didn’t find any cocaine either. I tried it once but my nose got all clogged up. I didn’t like the feeling of that at all.

Anyway, by the time Hingis’ positive test was processed by the drug testing lab, there may not have been any cocaine left in her body and that could explain why the hair test showed nothing. The International Tennis Federation didn’t buy the hair test result. They slapped her with a two year ban.

Contrast this with Roger Clemens. Clemens is one of the best baseball pitchers of all time – only seven pitchers have won more games than he has. He’s been accused of taking performance enhancing drugs by his trainer who says he injected Clemens in the butt with steroids.

Clemens first step was to do…nothing. His lawyer issued a statement denying the charges but Clemens took his time in responding. Why? Instead of saying something dumb in the heat of the moment, he was very corporate about the whole thing. He took his time so he could devise a strategy to deal with the public perception of the accusation.

Consider Floyd Landis for instance. Right after he tested positive for high levels of testosterone at the 2006 Tour de France, he blurted out a lot of silly stuff. Among other things, he blamed alcohol for his positive test. Clemens, on the other hand, put up a video statement on his foundation’s website and got 89-year-old Mike Wallace out of mothballs to interview him on the television show 60 Minutes.

Clemens is in a different situation than Hingis because baseball didn’t test for performance enhancing drugs when he allegedly used steroids. He’s fighting his trainer’s sworn statements, not a positive drug test. But I bring this up to show you the newest strategy for dealing with drug accusations: P.R. You still deny the charges vehemently but it’s done in the same way that a company might handle bad publicity: every step is planned and calculated.

Notice that it doesn’t really make much difference. If you sound silly or call the accusations horrendous we don’t believe you because you went on to lose the case and get a two year suspension. If you crank up the P.R. machine we don’t believe you either because it comes across as way too calculated.

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In no particular order, here is the first installment of notable events from the year 2007.

Bad Tennis Predictions

I went on the Sports Talk Cleveland radio show early in the year and participated in a serpentine draft for their tennis fantasy league. In a serpentine draft, whoever picks first in one round picks last in the next round. After I won the right to take the first pick in the draft and learned that I’d get the last pick in the second round, I blurted out, “Does that mean I have to take Serena?” Silly me. Serena Williams dropped in to the Australian Open and rolled into the final where she gobsmacked Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Roger Federer won the men’s title but, then, you knew that.

Megamerger Multimedia Disease Attacks Tennis

IMG bought Tennis Week, the venerable tennis publication started by the late, great Gene Scott 32 years ago. Not such a big deal until you realize that IMG also represents Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer (and Nick Bolletieri’s tennis academy). Is this yet another nail in the coffin of independent media? There is hope I suppose. The New York Times owns part of the Boston Red Sox and they still trash the Sox regularly. But it does make you wonder if Tennis Week would get interference from the head IMG guy if they trashed Sharapova for pulling out of Toronto because she stubbed her toe.

The Interview That Wasn’t

The P.R. firm for a wine that Jim Courier endorses offered me an interview with Courier. It started off as a telephone interview, then it was demoted to an email interview, and then it turned into nothing because Courier never answered my email. And that was after I spoke to my friend Bob Blumer, star of the Food Network show Glutton for Punishment, so I could get up to speed on old world wine versus new world wine. That was also after I picked Courier to be Richard Gasquet’s new coach because I thought Gasquet needed one. Gasquet didn’t need a new coach. He made it to the year end championships just fine thank you.

Pregnancy, Cocaine, and the Comeback Mommy of the Year

Anastasia Myskina and Kim Clijsters are both pregnant. That’s a better way to leave the tour than testing positive for cocaine. I’m sure Martina Hingis might have been happier if her engagement to Radek Stepanek had ended in marriage and she was taking a pregnancy test instead of a hair test to prove that she never touched the white stuff. Lindsay Davenport gave birth in June and returned to the tour three months later. So much for retirement. She went 13-1 in her comeback and plans to play in three slams in 2008.

The Media Wars

At the same time that Sports Illustrated laid off 298 employees, it paid $20 million for fannation.com, sports information and fan blogger site. The timing of these transactions made it look like S.I. was exchanging paid writers for unpaid fan bloggers, but the reality is a bit more complex. S.I. was trying to beef up its online presence and narrow the gap between si.com and the hugely popular espn.com. S.I. even poached ESPN radio personality Dan Patrick, but that must have pissed off ESPN because they turned around and stole S.I.’s back page columnist, Rick Reilly, with an unbelievable $3 million per year offer. Hey guys, I’m available and I’d take a lot less than $3 mil.

Back to Back to Back to Back

By the time I reached Indian Wells on Sunday afternoon in early March, Guillermo Canas had already beaten Federer for his biggest win since coming off a 15 month suspension for using a banned substance. He beat Federer again two weeks later in Miami and if that wasn’t bad enough, David Nalbandian raised himself from the dead, or at least from his lethargy, and beat Federer in consecutive meetings at the last two Masters Series events of the year, Madrid and Paris. And Nalbandian had never won a Masters Series event before! Not only that, but because I didn’t pick Nalbandian for my fantasy team in Paris, I dropped out of the top 100 in the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season for the first time all year and lost my subleague title. Serves me right for not believing in the guy.

To be continued…

Teddy Awards

Please go over to the poll on the right side of the page and vote for the player who is in most need of a new coach. I skipped Female Centerfold of the Year because Ana Ivanovic was the only player nominated.

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Not the game of tennis itself. That’s not boring.

Serena and Venus Williams took home a pair of slams and we had a fantastic final at the women’s year-end-championships. Roger Federer still got his three slams but he missed out on four Masters Series titles by losing consecutive matches twice to an unexpected player. One of those unexpected players, David Nalbandian, not only resurrected his career, but he improbably took it further than it had ever gone before.

It’s not over yet. Next week Andy Roddick gets a chance to lead the U.S. to its first Davis Cup title since 1995 and leave his mark on the game as one of the great Davis Cup players of all time.

No, it’s the other stuff that’s missing. Look at the rest of the sports world, for instance.

Barry Bonds was indicted and Michael Vick reported early for his jail sentence in the past week. Alex Rodriguez’ superagent screwed up and upstaged the baseball World Series thereby damaging A-Rod’s reputation so badly that A-Rod sidestepped his agent and asked the Yankees to take him back. University of Alabama football coach Lou Saban got in trouble for comparing two straight losses to disasters such as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. England lost to Croatia knocking them out of the 2008 European Championship and fired its coach.

Tennis has had a few drug suspensions this year but, hell, the entire peloton at the Tour de France was probably juicing up their blood. Last year’s champion was barnstorming the U.S. to raise money for his defense fund and this year’s yellow jersey holder was sent home because he’d lied about his whereabouts to avoid pre-race testing then got caught lying about his lies.

Tennis does have a gambling controversy. Nikolay Davydenko is buckling under the pressure of the investigation into whether he fixed a match and Alessio Di Mauro got a nine month suspension for laying down $15-20 bets on tennis but that’s all we got. Baseball had the Black Sox scandal which had eight players fixing games. And they also had Pete Rose who bet on baseball and lost his guaranteed place in the Hall of Fame.

Tennis is like ice skating: we have one criminal. Ice skating has Tonya Harding and we have Roscoe Tanner, though he’s old news. There is actually some new news about him and I’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Is tennis culturally relevant? Other sports are.

Baseball reflects cultural and political changes in the U.S. The number of Latino ballplayers is increasing yearly while the number of black ballplayers is decreasing. That reflects the U.S. culture as the Latino community is passing the black community both in economic and political power. The NBA reflects the growth of the global market with its high number of international stars including a new star from China this year, Yi Jianlian.

Same thing in tennis. Tennis in the U.S. is losing popularity and losing tournaments while the huge Asian market is getting new tournaments. Shanghai gets a new Masters Series event in 2009 and Roger Federer and Pete Sampras flew all over Asia – not Europe or the U.S. – for their barnstorming exhibition this week.

Tennis is exciting to watch and more or less culturally relevant. Two out of three ain’t bad don’t you think?

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Join us for the WTA Championships final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 11th, 2:00pm Los Angeles/5pm New York.

Gambling, cocaine and poison provide more than enough content for a celebrity tennis show.

If Jim Rome is talking about tennis, then tennis is definitely cool again. Rome is the spoken word king of daily sports radio in the U.S. and he talks about tennis about as often as he talks about the ballet.

Why was he talking about tennis? How about this: Tommy Haas believes he may have been poisoned during Germany’s Davis Cup semifinal against Russia in Moscow earlier this year. German Davis Cup player Alexander Waske reported that a Russian man casually told him that Haas had been poisoned.

Haas became sick after losing his first match in the event and had to withdraw. He plans to get medical tests to see if there is any evidence of poison in his system: “I want to find out if any poison can be traced or confirmed, ” he said. The International Tennis Federations (ITF) – which runs Davis Cup, is investigating the charge.

There’s a reason that Deadspin.com gets a gazillion hits every day. If you want to know everything about O.J. Simpson’s latest legal problem or read Big Daddy Drew’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo, that’s the place to go. Controversy sells. Sex sells.

The top online celebrity site, TMZ.com, is so popular that it now has its own television show. If breaking news means cutting to Britney Spears making an illegal left turn from Coldwater Canyon onto Mulholland Drive – an actual feature on TMZ this week, be sure to tune in.

Celebrity, controversy, and sex are now making they’re way to the tiny screen – your cellphone. CBS’s mobile entertainment division introduced a show focusing on fashion and gadgets but they scrapped that idea when they noticed that viewer numbers went up when celebrities were on screen. They now have a twice daily show focusing on celebrity gossip.

Don’t think tennis isn’t affected by the world of cellphone entertainment. I can now watch Wimbledon on my tiny screen. All I have to do is hook up a Slingbox, record Wimbledon on my DVR, and the Slingbox will beam Andy Roddick to my cellphone screen. It doesn’t matter if I’m lying in my backyard or cruising the back roads of Baja.

If original tennis programming makes it to cellphones, it’ll probably focus on players such as Martina Hingis who recently retired after testing positive for cocaine – known on the street as “blow” – and retired. Check out this hilarious cartoon. It shows Martina snorting the sideline of a tennis court.

Dour, camera shy Nikolay Davydenko would be a regular on our Celebrity Tennis show. Suspicious betting patterns on Davydenko’s match with Martin Vassallo-Arguello in August of this year kicked off the current controversy over gambling on the professional tennis tour.

This week’s Davydenko episode would focus on the ATP’s demand that Davydenko turn over records for all of the phones he owns or uses. Davydenko’s lawyers have refused to comply.

The next episode would feature an interview with Davydenko’s lawyer, Professor Frank Immenga, who blasted the ATP this week for conducting a witch hunt against Davydenko by fining him $2, 000 for “not trying” in one match and warning him about the same infraction in another. I have to agree with the professor on this one. The betting pattern in the August match clearly showed the fingerprint of a fixed match, but if the ATP can’t prove that the match was fixed and Davydenko was involved, don’t hound the guy to death.

Since Andy Roddick actually is a celebrity, he’d turn up on Celebrity Tennis because he complained in his blog this week that he was fined $20, 000 for skipping Paris while Davydenko was only fined $2, 000 for not trying. Roddick said he was recovering from a “tweaked” ankle and wanted to be sure he was prepared for next week’s year end championships in Shanghai. As you can see, Roddick didn’t accuse Davydenko of not trying but he did have a problem with the ATP:

…in essence they [the ATP] are setting the precedent that preparing and getting healthy for their year end event is worth a 20 grand fine, but tanking (again I have no opinion on guilt or innocence here) only warrants 2 grand….

Alessio di Mauro would be the star in today’s episode of Celebrity Tennis. The Italian tennis pro was suspended from the tour for nine months and fined $60, 000 by the ATP for betting on tennis matches from November 2006 to June of this year. Di Mauro never bet on his own matches and reportedly his bets were small.

Wow, maybe I should produce Celebrity Tennis. I’ve already got a week of programming in the can.


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Join us for the Paris Masters final! We’ll be blogging live this Sunday, November 4th, 7:30am Los Angeles/10:30am New York/3:30pm London (remember to set your clock back one hour Saturday night if you live in the U.S.).

Martina Hingis tested positive for cocaine and Roger Federer lost to David Nalbandian twice in a row. What is the world coming to?

A friend sent me an email invitation to an event at a local S&M parlor this weekend. I’m pretty vanilla so I didn’t accept the invitation but I was interested in the title of one of the workshops: Crack Addict. What’s crack got to do with S&M I wondered? Is that a new kind of kink I’ve never heard of before?

There are no doubt plenty of kinky acts I’ve never heard of but this one refers to whips. As in cracking a whip. Get it?

Crack is also connected to cocaine – it’s a diluted cocaine in the form of a rock – and I was even more surprised to hear it connected with Martina Hingis. I’m not naïve enough to think that rich athletes don’t try cocaine now and then and more power to them. I did enough acid and marijuana in my youth to get my fill, let others do it too. How else will they know what they’re missing?

Martina, however, tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon and that’s bit of a problem because cocaine is a stimulant which makes it a banned substance. Her response? I didn’t do it.

Here we go again. In the famous words of Rafael Palmeiro who sat in front of a congressional hearing on steroids, pointed his finger and said:

I have never used steroids. Period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.

Five months later he tested positive for the steroid stanozolol and suggested that the positive test had come from a liquid B-12 vitamin given him by a teammate. Later that season Palmeiro went home and he hasn’t played since.

Hingis is doing the retiring thing too and she’s denying that she ever used cocaine. This is her stated reason for retiring: “I do not want to have a fight with anti-doping authorities.” I can sympathize with that. I’ve written about the unfair balance of power held by anti-doping organizations over athletes and you have to wonder why it takes them four months to process a positive test.

But Martina, you can’t have it both ways. If you didn’t do cocaine, retiring sends a decidedly mixed message. The positive test result will stand if you don’t challenge it.

Does this taint Martina’s career? Not in the least. Party on girl, just be smarter about it. It’s not like cocaine is helpful in a tennis match. It’s a short lived high.

Martina’s return to tennis in 2006 after a three year layoff has been pretty cool. She’s done about what I expected. She got into the top ten, reached the quarterfinals at three slams, and won three titles. She can be proud of that.

Still, if she doesn’t fight the cocaine thing, she’ll go down as just one more big fat denier in a long line of deniers. And that’s really unfortunate because a huge part of Martina’s appeal was her unedited mouth. If she didn’t think much of an opponent’s game, she’d say so. If she was mad at the WTA, she’d say so.

And now she’s giving up because the case could drag on for years? Where’s your sense of outrage, Martina? It just doesn’t wash.

I’m hoping my co-writer Pat Davis will write one of her wonderful remembrances on the occasion of Martina’s retirement. How about it Pat?

Nalbandian Beats Federer Again

David Nalbandian beat Roger Federer again today in Paris. I don’t have time to write about it tonight but I’ll weigh in tomorrow.

I will say one thing. I expected Federer to lose early since he needs to get his rest for Shanghai – this is his third straight tournament – but I didn’t expect Nalbandian to keep rolling and how wrong I was.

Okay, I’ll say two things. Federer was beaten by Guillermo Canas in two consecutive tournaments earlier this year and now he’s been beaten twice by Nalbandian within three weeks. Federer’s hallmark is his ability to figure out an opponent’s game so we can assume the problem is not strategy. And as far as we know, he’s not losing brain cells.

That means Federer is not able to execute his strategy. It’s a very slight drop, he still won three slams this year, but it’s a clear indication of slippage in his game.

That brings us to today’s poll because Federer is also losing his grip on the number one ranking.

Pollster

The year end rankings for 2007 will have Federer as the number one player, Rafael Nadal as number two, and Novak Djokovic as number three. Here’s the question:

Exactly one year from today, who will be the number one ranked player in the ATP?
Roger Federer? Rafael Nadal? Novak Djokovic? None of the above?

Go to the poll on the right of the screen and to vote.

Tennis Diary TV Feature

Some of my favorite shows of all time are the Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. The hapless coyote Wile E. repeatedly tries to trap the annoying little Road Runner for dinner and Road Runner repeatedly escapes, usually leaving Wile E. to suffer in a contraption of his own making that has backfired on him.

It’s all very simple, stupid, and hilarious. Just my style.

In that vein, I bring you this week’s Tennis Diary TV Feature: Tennis Funnies (If Tennis Funnies is not currently playing, click on Channel Guide and select it.)

It’s simple, sometimes crude, stupid, and really funny. Have a laugh. Why not? The world is falling apart.


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