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 ?


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