Saturday, November 3, 2007

One way or the other, Hingis is a victim

Five minutes after news of Hingis’s press conference broke, I visited and was floored to see an image of Martina not only on the front page, but right at the top of the content. Ordinarily, when it comes to good news, an American would have to win Roland Garros while playing with a broken leg to see herself so prominently in a non-sport media outlet.
From On the Baseline

I couldn't have said it better myself. Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that Martina Hingis used cocaine this summer. Other players discuss their use of the recreational drug, alcohol, in their player blogs. A couple of WTA players are known for their collections of the recreational drug, alcohol. The problem is that using cocaine is illegal, and supposedly, performance-enhancing. The official argument is that use of the illegal drug, marijuana, is not a major crime because marijuana is not a stimulant, like cocaine. But does any reasonable person really think that doing cocaine is going to help a tennis player do anything other than maybe feel happier about playing her match? And does anyone actually think that Hingis or any other player would use cocaine right before a match? No matter what anyone says, cocaine is not really a performance-enhancing drug; it is a recreational drug (even the head U.S. Open physician says cocaine is a performance-enhancing drug only "theoretically").

I worked for many years in drug treatment programs, and I have learned to hear all "explanations" of how drugs crept their way into someone's urine as lies. However--considering the record of those who do drug-testing for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour--I am prepared, in this case, to consider the possibility that Hingis is telling the truth.

Consider the terrible assault on Svetlana Kuznetsova, who violated no rules, but was nevertheless harrassed by the drug-testers. In 2005, Kuznetsova was accused of having ephedrine in her blood. Well, she did have ephedrine in her blood, and it was perfectly legal. Kuznetsova, who took a cold remedy, was playing in an exhibition match in Belgium, and the rules state clearly that such substances as ephedrine are perfectly okay to use in exhibition events. Kuznetsova was devastated by the accusation and resulting publicity, and the idiot Belgian official who ordered the testing refused to apologize to her.

Then there is the case of Sesil Karatantcheva, who received the longest doping suspension--two years--ever given to a female tennis player. Karatantcheva also lost all of her ranking points and had to give back $129,000 of winnings because she twice tested positive for nandrolone. Karatantcheva claimed her nandrolone level was high because she was (unknowingly) pregnant. She was right, and faced with a positive pregnancy test, the drug-testing establishment refused to budge.

Last year, during the U.S. Open Series, drug-testing procedures became increasingly Draconian. Martina Hingis, who was scheduled to play later in the day, was roused out of bed at dawn to perform a drug test. Kim Clijsters was walking down the street when two people literally dragged her away to do a drug test. Serena Williams says that she has always been subjected to unusually frequent drug tests.

Events such as the ones desribed above give me no confidence at all in either the intent or the results of WTA drug-testing procedures. Kuznetsova, Hingis and Clijsters--and possibly Karatantcheva--were the victims of abuse and harrassment, and the WTA, as far as I can tell, has done nothing to protect its players from such outlandish behaviors on the part of drug-testing administrators. At the very least, Hingis is a victim of social hypocrisy and questionable definition, and she may even be a victim of the drug-testing goon squad.

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