Drugs in tennis, Many unanswered questions

Maria Sharapova is not the 1st celebrity tennis player to be involved in a drug scandal.  Lets have a look at a few more.

Interestingly earlier alcohol was allowed during matches. Suzanne Lenglen used to have cognac while playing. There have been instances where players got drunk while playing Grand Slam matches. Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase who emptied a bottle of champagne while playing doubles in the 1970’s were probably the last players to have a drink while playing.

Alcohol was banned but sadly rumours of drug abuse surfaced. There were rumours of even top players like Borg and Mcenroe, Vitas Gerulatis and Pat Cash taking cocaine.  Mats Wilander and Martina Hingis even tested positive for cocaine.

Astonishingly many argued that it being a recreational drug is ok, but the law is clear. Being a stimulant, it is banned.


Yannick Noah created a sensation by admitting that he had taken hashish but insisted that others were doing cocaine. He also said that if it was not dealt with strictly there could even be overdose from deaths. Boris Becker once spoke about Thomas Muster taking “something”. Steffi Graf once held a press conference to state that while she had never done drugs in her life, there were many who did so.  There were rumours about Sabatini too and she threatened legal action when her name was discussed as a possible drug abuser.

Could  these accusations by legends be true?

Subsequently Andre Agassi in his book confessed that he had used crystal Meth and snorted it with a friend named Slim. Astonishingly he once tested positive in a tournament in 1997 but his explanation that his drink was spiked was accepted and the entire sordid episode swept under the carpet. No one even knew about it till he revealed in his He went on to win many Majors.

Was clean chit to him and keeping it a secret fair on clean players?

Later in 2002 a French player Nicholas Escude claimed that many players were on drugs which was obvious from their bodies and eyes and while many players tested positive the ATP was hiding the results. Later it came to light that in 2002 and 2003 seven players tested positive for nandrolone and 53 showed high traces of it. However only one of the seven players named Bodhan Ulirach was identified and suspended for 2 years.

Why were others not named ?

Were they prominent players ? Did they go on to win Majors? We do not know.

Richard Gasquet was tested positive for cocaine in Miami Open in 2009 and 1st swore that he had never done drugs. Then he said he had gone clubbing and his drinks may have been spiked. His close friend, Rafa Nadal gave a bizarre excuse saying Gasquet may  have kissed a cocaine user. After some time Gasquet himsel said that he indeed had kissed a woman named Pamela few times. His sentence was cut from 2 years to 2 and half months.  “Pamela” also sued him saying he had damaged her reputation and ruined her relationship with her boyfriend.

Was reducing his punishment fair ? We do not Know.

What then is Required ? In my view transparency and Consistency are very Important to retain faith in fair play both among clean players and fans. The decisions regarding punishment, including the quantum have to be consistent to avoid bias. For instance Greg Rusedski tested positive, yet no action was taken. However Ulrich was suspended. Many others were unnamed. Such lack of consistency is to be avoided.

Finally, as regards Sharapova one starts thinking how for 10 years did she get hold of a medicine not sold in USA? Why will a Doctor of another country prescribe to a person staying in USA a medicine not allowed to be sold in USA ? How did she and support staff miss numerous communications that Meldonium has been put in banned list ? Isnt  Meldonium a drug for few weeks/months, not ten years ? Provisional ban is 1 year , what will be final ban, and will there be transparency as to how it is arrived at.

Will these questions remain unanswered as well ?


Personal Insights on Immortal Biju Patnaik

Biju Babu was a “TALL” leader, a giant, a pioneer and a pathfinder.  He was a statesman with vision and a true leader of masses. I have been fortunate to have some personal insights regarding this wonderful personality which I would like to share by penning them down.

I am from BJB College. Once Biju Babu had come there and spoke to us. He said, “Why are my sisters and daughters standing in hot sun, organisers pl note for future”. He then spoke of population control and requested all to go in for family planning. He spoke about unemployment and said that he will give us 1000 jobs, but by the time he does so, we stupid chaps will give birth to 10000 kids. Said that these are issues which all have to tackle , not only those in Government. Imagine a leader speaking like this to 16-17 year students and that too in 1990.  Fantastic.

After BJB College I went to Delhi University. Once at Orissa Bhawan New Delhi, i was walking downstairs with a classmate Ranjib and we sensed a buzz. Turning back, we saw  JB Patnaik walking down leisurely and Biju Babu behind him. Biju babu who walks faster went passed JB and got into the earmarked car of JB Patnaik. The perplexed driver looked at JB, who with a wave of his hands indicated him to carry on and take Biju babu and that he will go in another car. That was the magnetic personality of this tall leader

My relative was his Doctor. Once he told him, Sir, please slow down on your eating, you are eating omelette with 6 eggs, thats not good for u. Biju Babu exploded with anger “What kind of Doc are u, u should make me fit so that I can go back to having omelette with 12 eggs”. A friend’s brother in law had treated him for some time and at a time when he was unwell and supposed to be in bed the doctor walked in to find him with his favorite sukhua (dry salted fish), mutton and chicken – and he made him eat with him without any discussion. Legend is that he was able to eat 1 kilo of mutton by himself-as one of the food items.

As CM he once wrote a letter to the PM starting with “My dear Narasimha”. His IAS Secy hemmed, hedged and finally blurted that he should write Sir. Biju Babu frowned and said, “Arre he is my junior and he calls me Sir”. The officer replied that it is from chair of CM to chair of PM. Biju Babu told him Get out and the officer quietly left the room. 5 minutes later Biju babu called him back and said that he had reconsidered and the officer was correct. Amazing

My Dad was Chief Engineer and once I was with him for a  Bridge inauguration event by Biju Babu. CM spoke about various issues of health, employment, centre-state relations, about the pending work he wants to do, about the meeting he had with PM week back and the week following- and what he will get for Orissa in the meeting. Then he completed his speech with a single sentence, “Ah, I have come for bridge inauguration, I am sure engineer babu and his staff must have done their work well, I will also tell Kaalia ( Lord Jagannath) so that the bridge serves the people of Orissa for more than 100 years, I am going for meeting with PM, Thanks all of you”.

Biju babu was very fond of my dad as roads were good in his time and my dad was chief Engineer roads for 3 years. My dad had only 1 month service left and  was due for promotion. Biju babu called him and asked “why will I make you works secretary and not your successor who has 4 years 6 months”. My dad replied that as CM it is his prerogative but for three reasons he staked his claim; firstly the officer who has 4 years 6 months can also achieve whatever he wants in 4 years 5 months but in 30 days I too can contribute, secondly as an honest person he will gain by 150 rupees pension per month (in 92) and finally for a non ias secretary to state government is the highest post a state government engineer can aspire for and he will remember Biju babu to help him realise his dream. Biju babu looked at my dad for a few seconds , picked up the phone and said “I had asked 2 draft orders , put up Misra’s order and make him secretary “.

Like nowadays those days too there were lot of complaints about doctors that they used to do operations in nursing homes and not in government hospitals. My father in law was due for promotion as Professor Surgery. So Biju Babu who was CM sent his driver to check and his driver asked my father in law that he doesn’t mind being operated in nursing home. The reply was “why not in SCB Medical college, why do u want to waste money”. The next day promotion order was out

Before joining IRS, I was working with NALCO and attached with the CMD. Once Biju Babu called up the Chairman and recommended someone for a MT ( Management Trainee) job. That chap unfortunately could not clear the written. The CMD was perplexed how to say No to Biju Babu. After 2 days the he decided to personally go and tell him. Biju Babu said that he was very happy and would have been furious if the written exam conducted by a national agency would have been manipulated. He then added, “of course if he would have got through the written, then it would have had to be done and I would not have taken no for an answer”

I still remember that day 17th April 1997. I was in office and my boss suddenly said “I got the news Biju babu is no more, we are not working today ,lets leave office to pay our respects to him”. The spontaneous procession of  lakhs will always be in my memory.  Today is the 100th birth anniversary of this remarkable trailblazer and trendsetter, a straight talking and decisive leader on a mission.  He is Immortal.

Jeffery Archer has become a Hindi Formula Movie

My definition of favourite writer is someone whose books i can read again and again. PG Wodehouse and John Grisham are in this category. So WAS Jeffery Archer who has written three of my all time favourite books, Kane and Abel, Not a Peeny More, Not a Penny Less and First Among Equals.

Archer’s life itself is like a fascinating thriller movie. As a fund-raiser for Oxfam he had the support of Beatles.  As a student he was an Oxford Blue in athletics, President of University athletics Club and represented England as a 100 metre sprinter. He was a fundraiser for UN, an auctioneer, a politician a writer, playwright and an art gallery owner.

Controversies. As a student fundraiser, Archer had houses and cars with personalised number plates, which raised eyebrows. He was accused of discrepancies in fund raising for UN. He was involved in a fraudulent investment scheme which left him nearly bankrupt. He was accused of shop-lifting 3 suits from a departmental store. As a writer, he has been accused of plagiarism, and as an investor accused of insider trading.

Political Career Archer became a Member of Parliament at 29. Due to Financial mis-propriety and controversies his career took a back seat until Margaret Thatcher revived it in the 1980’s and made him Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. In 1991 he organised a rock concert with Rod Stewart, Paul Simon, Sting and Gloria Estefan for the Kurdish refugees, raising millions. For this charitable activity, his friend Prime Minister Major made him a life Peer in 1992. Archer had a last chance to revive his political career in 2000 by becoming Mayor of London, but as he was accused of perjury and jailed he had to withdraw his candidature. The Conservative Party leader declared that this was the end of Archer, the politician.

Writing Career  Interestingly, Archer’s First book Not a Penny More, not a Penny Less was written by him as a means to avoid bankruptcy. He followed this with many more and also some extremely popular short stories as well.  His books were bestsellers though he never got much critical acclaim.

Archer’s books were unique, extremely realistic and varied as well. One could learn a lot about various things. There is humour, skilful writing and the incredible ability of keeping the storyline intact amidst different characters, all of whom played their own glorious parts. His earlier books were all superb masterpieces in their own right.

I have said above that Jeffery Archer WAS in my list of favourite authors, but sadly not now. Why ? I just finished Book 6 of the 7 part “Clifton Chronicles”. Yes I bought the book, in fact I bought all 6 and will buy the 7th too. However nowadays I feel Archer is writing the same book numerous times with different names. Just like in a formula Hindi movie there are some extremely repetitive, predictive and clichéd occurrences happening, so also an Archer Book can nowadays be exactly predicted even before it is written.

Every New Archer book nowadays has the following. There will be;

  1. Increase in the number of central characters.
  2. The characters will cover at least 3 generations. ( Is this to ensure a series and not a single book. Now, that would be sad )
  3. One character will be from a very poor background. He will then rise to riches due to hard work, street smartness, luck and brilliance
  4. There will be a romantic angle between the impoverished hero and a rich lady character.
  5. There will be opposition from one parent of the rich lady character
  6. The impoverished hero will become richer and more famous than his rich wife
  7. There will be another rich character with one or two failed marriages, including at least one where he has married for beauty/looks and the opposite character has married him/her for money and money alone
  8. There will be a large business enterprise, preferably an old and established bank
  9. There will be an instance or two of insider trading
  10. There must be at least 2 Villainous characters, one of which has to be an ex spouse or ex girlfriend/boyfriend and the other has an ex military background preferably with some knowledge of banking/stock market
  11. There will be at least one successful takeover of the bank by someone with the blessings of the villainous character. There will also be a failed takeover attempt
  12. The villainous Military character will preferably be a war hero, and have received a medal which he did not deserve.
  13. One of the children will leave the residence due to some disagreement or simply because he/she wants to be successful on own merit. Usually he/she will be and get a hero’s welcome back
  14. There will be a dramatic vote too close to call. There will be a surprise vote too in this both for and against.
  15. There will be an accident or a suicide, or sometimes a murder which is camouflaged as suicide. The suicide will preferably be with a sensational letter
  16. There will be a rich old gentleman who will firmly stand by the Hero’s side
  17. There will be a loyal and sincere secretary who takes notes seriously and the notes come to of some unforeseen use
  18. Finally, there will be a crucial race against time to reach an important event or meet a crucial deadline.

Due to above repetitive points I feel that for the last few years I am reading the same book again and again. Do you feel the same?

I sincerely want that the 7th book of Clifton Chronicles is out as promised by December 2016 so that there is closure for me. Thereafter I want the Master to write one, just one more masterful book which is unique. Till then I will continue to read again and again Kane and Abel, PG Wodehouses and John Grishams. The more I read them the more I find new things/points in them, unlike the current Archer novels.