Saturday, February 21, 2009

But Aren't they tested Regularly?

Another argument that people use is that tennis players receive regular drug tests and therefore could not be on steroids. This is a spurious argument for any number of reasons, not the least being that there was supposedly extensive testing in track and field and cycling and people were making the same arguments for Marion Jones. The simple fact is that the tests are generally easy to beat. If you are handed a cup and asked to go into the bathroom and pee in it, no one knows exactly what you are doing in there. It would be simple enough to have a ready supply of drug free urine (your own or someone else's) and you could fill the cup with that. Of course you are going to test negative. They also do not test every athlete at every tournament (if anyone has different information - please put it forward). This brings me to a theory I have about tennis players like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal dropping out of tournaments with phantom injuries. I am guessing that they know which tournaments they will be tested at and deliberately skip them. They are probably then required to take a test at home (yeah, big deal). This way, they can avoid the heavier scrutiny of onsite drug testing. There are certainly other possibilities - they can stop the steroids long enough before a match to get by the test. This would also explain why they skip tournaments. They might also have found an undetectable steroid such as happened with the baseball and track and field scandal. I think this is less likely, only because I don't believe that they would miss so many tournaments. If anyone has access to the actual testing protocols, I would appreciate it. I think that if we had those, it would be possible to figure out exactly what players are doing to beat the tests.
In any case, there is a larger point to be made. Tennis has just recently instituted more stringent testing.* The first ones to complain about it were Serena and Nadal. No surprise there. This apparently involves giving one day notice before coming to a player's home. Again, this is still not sufficient if they just hand them the cup and let them go into their own bathroom alone. I ask you, though: If there was no problem with performance enhancing drugs in tennis then why did they just start doing more stringent tests? Obvioiusly, I am not the only one who suspects that there is a problem. It would seem likely that if there are any non-steroid users on the tour, they are going to complain. Is this why Federer is losing to Nadal? Federer is one of the few players that doesn't give even a whiff of being on steroids, at least by physical appearance. I am not naive, but if he is actually not using steroids, his tennis feats will one day be recognized as superhuman.

*This story by Bonnie Ford makes mention of the new drug testing policies in tennis:

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