Giving tennis more than a shot

Opinion – Koellerer Lashes Out on Nadal, and Leads to Even More Questioning

He might be suspended for life, but Daniel Koellerer still talks, and a lot. (Photo: Getty Images)

He might be suspended for life, but Daniel Koellerer still talks, and a lot.
(Photo: Getty Images)

He was perhaps banned for life by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for match-fixing, but Daniel Koellerer continues to talk, and to talk a lot.

This time, he lashed out on Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, particularly on the former, accusing him of doping:

“Let’s take Rafael Nadal. It’s not possible that he tested negative. After being seven months away from competition with an injury, to come back and win 10 out of 13 tournaments… it’s impossible. Impossible! That says it all. This combines to the rumours of fake injuries to mask silent bans. Look, no one believes the tales that he’s not taking anything! Imagine what the news of him testing positive would mean for tennis.”

Koellerer is not the first player, in the recent months, to talk about such a topic regarding Nadal. In January, former player Christophe Rochus also had rather harsh words in an interview for a Belgian paper regarding the Spaniard:

“Regarding Nadal, these rumours [of doping] remain rumours even though everyone is asking themselves: how can one be so strong in Roland Garros and a month later supposedly unable to play? This is what makes it suspicious, but we have no proof. For what it’s worth, he’s really injured.”

Then, asked about how injury breaks might blur some lines, Rochus added:

“That’s the purpose! The purpose is that these things wouldn’t be clear! Everyone makes it so that it won’t be clear. The less you lie, the less explanations you give, the better it is!”

To stress his point, Rochus also proceeded to talk about Robin Söderling’s lengthy absence due to a mononucleosis, emphasising on how suspicious it is that “from one day to the next”, after “being nearly unbeatable”, a player suddenly declares that he can’t play tennis anymore. [NDLR: Before being diagnosed with mono, two years ago, Söderling was not winning much.]

Necessary debate, but…

The kind of talk and accusations made by former players open what I consider to be a necessary debate regarding the cleanliness of tennis. Playing ostrich and burying our heads in the sand would not do the sport any good.

Thinking that tennis is completely clean would be naïve.

However, throwing accusations left and right like Koellerer and Rochus did is, perhaps, not the way to do it. This nevertheless instils serious doubts in people’s minds.

This makes me question myself. Why, when there is talk of doping, is the first player accused almost always Nadal? Should we give credit to a former player who is banned for life from the sport, and who has made his fame with his on-court questionable behaviour and off-court declarations? Or, for that matter, to a former player who has been throwing doping accusations left and right since his retirement?

After all, someone like Lance Armstrong has never tested positive throughout his career, having become a master at avoiding to get caught, but was still doped to the core…

Many, many questions raised. Just as many doubts regarding our sport. And no proofs are given, as there are none to be had.

Furthermore, when there can be proofs, like in Operation Puerto, the court orders said proofs to be destroyed (that is still being contested, so perhaps there could be a glimmer of hope there).

It becomes even more disturbing when hearing that a former Spanish Federation president admits to have helped cover-up a player’s positive test, or when you read that Marin Cilic might have faked his knee injury at the time of taking his silent ban, during Wimbledon. Sure thing, Cilic has denied, even though the doubts remain, as pointed out by Foot Soldiers of Tennis.

Transparency is needed

What tennis needs, more than anything, is transparency. We can understand their need not to divulge anything until the investigation process is complete, especially if, in the end, the player who tested positive is found innocent.

However, as we have seen with Andre Agassi, who admitted in his autobiography to have tested positive to crystal meth in 1997 and lying about it to be cleared, it is possible that a player who tests positive would lie in order to avoid a ban, or to avoid seeing his name linked to a positive drug test. Indeed, Agassi had not tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance (PED), but he still had a banned substance in his blood, and it had been taken willingly.

This leads to another question: how many positive tests are thus brushed under the carpet by the ITF and the ATP?

Those are doubts and questionings that no one should have. If there were more transparency when it comes to the testing, on top of an increased amount of tests (especially blood tests) done, it would help dissipate those doubts, and a lot.

Otherwise, it is a never-ending debate, leading to more accusations without proof, and to more questioning.

If, as many say, tennis is clean, then it would be better to prove it and dissipate the doubts once and for all.

I don’t think this is too much to ask.

(Koellerer quotes taken from Álvaro Rama’s article on Punto de Break. All translations from Spanish and French are my own.)

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