Foot Fault!

Calling all the lines of professional tennis

An Few Questions.

It’s strange to think that just a few months ago, about the only real coverage or mere mention of doping in tennis came via the long-standing website Tennis Has A Steroid Problem. Though I certainly didn’t agree with everything in it, the site was a must-read because it asked the questions that desperately needed to be asked and discussed what needed to be discussed.

Suddenly, in this unfamiliar post-Armstrong and post-Fuentes world, such questions and discussion on doping have conversely become difficult to avoid. Most recently in the form of an interesting article which touches on an unnamed female Croatian player or resident banned from the tour:

Doctor Luis Garcia del Moral is best known for setting up the doping system for the US Postal cycling team, he also had more than a decade of guiding tennis players at the Spanish TenisVal Academy. A tennis player my former company managed went to train at TenisVal some years ago – breaking her contract to do so. She returned to Croatia leaner, stronger and with notable skin irritations. It came as no surprise that a random drugs test found her to have taken anabolic steroids, amongst other banned drugs. She received a 6 month ban and went back on tour. The governing body of tennis, the ITF, were informed fully of what had happened, yet in the 6 years that have passed nothing has happened.

Naturally, I automatically put on my imaginary detective hat and began perusing t’Internet for Croatian players absent from the tour somewhere around mid-2006 or 2007. The only 2006 year-end top 500 player to fall into this category was actually the one whose name immediately sprung to mind due to the 10 month (initially estimated 6 months) injury break she took in April 2007; everyone’s favourite ball-pummeler (and Marcos Baghdatis’ wife), Karolina Sprem. Still, there is no available information that links Sprem to the TennisVal academy or Moore’s old company, so the player in question could possibly be a non-Croatian national.

Of course, the identity of the player in question is largely irrelevant. What is interesting is that this article touches on a female professional player failing a drugs test, being banned for six months and the ITF being aware of the case. Despite that fact, no Croatian player or resident has been publicly banned in or around this period. It certainly doesn’t appear on their anti-doping page. Who is this player and why hasn’t the ITF released this information?

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7 responses to “An Few Questions.

  1. Mark @ Tennisopolis.com February 5, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Good digging! I have been seeing that site THASP mentioned more and more lately.

  2. x February 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve read what that person wrote and I don’t understand what made you think he’s talking about a silent ban. What i understood is that the ITF was aware of the fact that the doping issue had something to do with the TennisVal academy yet the federation didn’t do any investigation there in the following years. He also mentions that the player broke the contract with the company before the drug issue, so if the silent ban actually happened how would this guy know about it? If silent bans were a reality then you’d think a VERY limited number of people would find out about them. It’s also hard to believe they would silently ban an unknown mediocre player but publicly ban Martina Hingis. I think you didn’t read this correctly… but it’s just my opinion.

    • footfaulter February 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      I should preface this by saying I personally have always been on the sceptical side of the idea that the ITF are silently banning players, but I’m just reproducing what he said.

      I didn’t say the ITF enforced a silent ban, but simply that it implies that they were involved in some way. He explicitly says she received a 6 month ban from the tour (but not who enforced the ban) and returned afterwards (“She received a 6 month ban and went back on tour.”) and that the ITF were aware of it but said nothing. The ITF may not have enforced the actual silent ban, but they are involved by virtue of not disclosing the information. Either way, they’re still a guilty party, untrustworthy and in the wrong if this is true.

      As for the contract part, just because she broke the terms of the contract, it doesn’t necessarily mean contact was immediately severed and they/he didn’t ever see or hear from her again. I searched the guy pretty extensively and he does have clear links to players and undoubtedly many more contacts to insiders and people in the Croatian federation or whatever. He may not be telling the truth or repeating an unreliable rumour, but it’s also totally plausible that the story is correct.

      As for the Hingis case, that’s completely different. She was banned for the tiniest, most minute measurement of cocaine. It’s not a performance enhancing drug so it’s irrelevant and wouldn’t/hasn’t reflected badly on the tour or ITF. Theoretically, if (that’s a big “if”) the ITF were in the business of covering up certain positive tests, Hingis testing positive actually gave them the opportunity to demonstrate that they show zero tolerance regardless of the player or substance in question. But that’s way too conspiracy theory-ish for me. Again, I’m just reporting what he wrote.

      • x February 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

        I think those words ca be interpreted in different ways. He didn’t say the ITF were aware of it and said nothing. He said the ITF was informed of the entire situation, the player was banned, yet in the following years nothing happened with the academy and Del Moral. That makes more sense to me and if he were talking about a silent ban I think he would have made his point more clear.

    • footfaulter February 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      But the point is that, regardless of how this played out and what actually happened, over the past six/seven/eight/whatever years zero female Croatian players or Croatian residents have been publicly banned from the tour for drugs abuse. By extension it means that, if this guy is correct, the ITF have kept it quiet and not released the information to the public, which – regardless of whether the player involved is Hingis or Odesnik – they are required to do.

  3. FrajC February 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Having read the original article you are twisting it and stretching the facts. It does not mention or even hint at cover up, it openly refers to a ban and the academy. Not that the itf sikently covered it over. Plus some fact checking on the players you refer to would make your post more truthful or rather real. You are right to highlight ped problems, extremely so. Also your quote is not attributed or placed in context which damages what you have highlighted. Just an opinion.

    • footfaulter February 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks for your input.

      Over the past 6/7/8/9/whatever years, not a single Croatian female tennis player or Croatian resident has been publicly banned for drugs abuse. After reading it whilst being aware of that fact, it’s the logical conclusion I came to. If this player was banned for six months and the ITF were aware of it, why haven’t the public been made aware of it? I actually stumbled across this article from a different (tennis) source who had shared the article and people had already interpreted it in that way. I then deliberated with a friend and we both came to the same conclusion.

      As I said to the commenter above, not once in the article did I explicitly say that the ITF were silently banning a player. I said they were involved. Point being that regardless of what happened, if this is true and they were aware of the case yet haven’t released the information to the public, are they not complicit?

      As for the quote, I only picked that part out because it was the only bit relevant to tennis. This is a tennis blog not a drugs one. The rest is about drugs in general.

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