“You have to hold your nerve, and I don’t know if there’s a drug for that. . .Tennis has a pretty good record and we continually test.”
So said Venus Williams today when asked if Alex Rodriguez’s admitted steroid use cast suspicion on tennis and other pro sports.
Oh boy, do we really want to open up this can of worms? Guess it’s already been opened. . .
The A-Rod news came out just as we were reading about the new, tougher (Andy Murray called them “draconian”), drug testing procedures that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is instituting on a number of sports under its purview, including tennis. While the general guidelines have been in place for years, the new code requires that athletes make themselves available for testing – i.e. peeing in a cup – seven rather than five days a week (at a time predetermined by the player), and that they remain present for the whole of the testing hour, not just part of it. Players must keep WADA informed of any scheduling changes, meaning that anything from a canceled flight to a booty call could require an explanation to the agency. (Check out this informative article from the BBC for more info.)
Of the top tennis pros, Murray and Nadal have been the most vocal opponents to the toughened-up system, while Roger Federer thinks it’s necessary, saying, “You’re not going to catch them by ringing up and saying, ‘Look, I’d like to test you maybe in two days.’ The guy is cheating and they are smart, right?”
Not to be an over-the-top Fedophile about it, but I think Roger is right-on in his pro-WADA stance. Doping has become so sophisticated that hard core testing is simply the price professional athletes have to pay for doing what they do. And of course it’s not going to be perfect or fair, and it especially sucks for those players who are clean, as I’m sure Nadal and Murray are. But wouldn’t it suck even more if a cheater got away with stealing their hard-earned glory? Nadal, himself, almost fell victim to such a fate - a since-suspended Mariano Puerta took Rafa to four sets in his first Roland Garros final.
No one can know for certain if the new rules will stop people like Puerta from messing with the game’s history. I’m willing to give WADA the benefit of the doubt until someone comes up with a better way. Whether clean or dirty, the players can’t determine the best way police themselves – just look at what the baseball players’ union tried to pull with that nonesense 5% threshold.
And forget the players for a moment – let’s start looking out for ourselves, the fans. Hard-core testing lets us be confident in the integrity of our sport – gives us a swagger when we recite our favorite players’ feats to our (baseball-loving) friends. When you see a guy like Nadal win two grueling, 5-hour-plus matches in a row on his way to the Aussie Open title, it makes A-Rod’s admission even more pathetic and indefensible. Could any of us ever imagine a drug scandal tarnishing Roger Federer’s record of 237 straight weeks at No. 1 in the world? I’ll be peeing in a cup once a week before that happens.
Enough about me, what do you think?