Wertheim on Drug use in the WTA
I'd like to thank eta psi, who drew my attention to this in another thread.
Now that John Mendoza (Australian Sports Drug Agency chief executive) has courageously come out for drug testing because drug use is "rife" in tennis, especially on the women's side, why won't the WTA and ITF admit it has a criminal and sporting problem? It hardly behooves the tennis world (or baseball, football, track, etc.) to have it stars portrayed as junkies who can swing a racket. Didn't Ivan Lendl address this problem with a clear-headed, but stern, ban-them-for-life solution? What is best for the sport?
—Walter Ledesma, Lake Oswego, Ore.
Courageously? Mendoza pops off about rampant drug use in tennis, but rather than citing concrete evidence to support what is an extraordinarily serious and incriminating charge -- one that cuts to the sport's core credibility -- he talks about the women's "abnormal physique." What does that mean? Abnormal to whom? I see a phrase like that and I envision a small man who is freaked out by strong, muscular women. You're right that it hardly behooves the sport to have its stars portrayed as drug cheats. But as long as the allegations are as unsubstantiated and apparently speculative as Mendoza's, I'm not sure that tennis takes much of a hit.
For a variety of reasons -- one of them, I believe, is some folks' desperation to discredit the success of the Williams sisters -- drugs-in-tennis has been a hot topic of late, both in general and among Mailbag readers. The stance here remains unchanged. Is tennis somehow free of the drug cheats who sully every other sport? No. Is it likely that more players will test positive within the next year? Yes. Do the tours as well as the ITF need to step up their testing programs in a meaningful way that goes beyond repeating the buzzword "transparency" at every available opportunity? Absolutely, the WTA in particular. But talk of "rife" drug use in tennis is wildly overstated.
Tennis, to be sure, is not without its ills. Management groups exert entirely too much power, too many players are getting injured, the sport's profile in the United States continues its slow burn, players bag tournaments at the 11th hour with "maladies" like gastritis. But from everything I've seen and been told, on and off the record, the widespread use of performing-enhancing drugs isn't one of them.
Proud to be an American
Not blind. Not uninformed. We are party to atrocities. But the response of the world after 9/11 is worth noting. Even our most dire enemies offered aid. We should all be so lucky.