Written by: Michael Emmett
***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs. He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet. Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada. Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s. Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***
These are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ONcourt and its publishers. For another view on the topic please see this article.
Rafael Nadal’s performance over the last month has been nothing short of amazing. Who takes seven months away from the ATP tour and comes back and wins their first Master’s series event with all the top guns in the field? History says this is impossible. This is his first hard court title since October of 2010. Nadal is 17-1 in 2013 with a perfect 4-0 record against top ten players. Nadal destroyed 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals, losing only six games (6-4, 6-2) en route to the title. Every great tennis player in a similar situation has failed in their quest to come all the way back from a long layoff in such a short time frame. Why not Nadal? Why is he so special?
How did Lance Armstrong finish third in the Tour De France after missing five years of competitive racing? The gap in this instance is even greater – 2005 to 2009 – not surprisingly, he didn’t win the event. But he did finish third! Something most experts thought was improbable. For me, it made total sense. I lived in Austin, Texas for five years (Lance’s home town) and heard all the rumours. Apparently, they were all true.
Well, there are just as many Nadal rumours out there. I sat in a locker room a few years back and listened to three coaches discussing the steroids that Nadal was taking. One of the coaches, who was from Columbia, said he saw Nadal ingesting some sort of PEDs prior to a workout session in Monte Carlo. I know this is all hearsay, but enough people in the know have come forward to say they’ve seen it – I believe this will all come out one day – just like it did for Lance Armstrong.
My thought is they (Nadal & Armstrong) were both using steroids and engaging in blood doping. Why not, if they figured they could get away with it and gain a tremendous competitive advantage. Obviously, both men were helped immensely by their team of experts during the entire process. This is a huge gamble and a massive undertaking – it’s not a venture you go at alone.
We know Lance’s story, as he finally came clean with Oprah Winfrey a few months ago. But we also know he didn’t tell the entire truth on that platform. Evidence is there to support Armstrong was blood doping in 2009 & 2010. The lead man on the Armstrong investigation has suggested that the odds are one million to one (or greater in his opinion) that Armstrong ‘s increased blood levels are not due to blood doping.
Why did Armstrong tell the truth about everything else and not about his time between 2004 & 2009. He had the chance to come totally clean! But his lying addiction got the better of him. So sad! So disappointing! The man can never be trusted again! His lifetime ban from cycling will remain intact as a result of this calculated lie on national television in front of millions of viewers.
What about Nadal – can he be trusted? Unfortunately, I believe this is the Lance story all over again. One day, Nadal, like many of his lying, cheating predecessors before him will come forward and admit the truth in a national forum just like Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose and all the rest of the bad eggs did. But, as was the case with everybody else – it will be too late!
Has Nadal ever blood doped? You bet! Has he taken performance enhancing drugs? No doubt! Rumours are rampant and Nadal’s most recent behaviour has been curious at best. Coming out last month and urging that all the names be exposed from Dr. Fuentes (more on him later) supposed list of suspects in Operation Puerto is comical. Dr. Fuentes is infamous with Spanish athletes and their connection to blood doping and illegal drugs. Does Nadal really believe that this strategy will squash all of the chit chat about his link to PEDs? Even funnier is this is the exact formula Lance used back when he was being investigated. Rafa is mirroring Lance’s approach stride-for-stride. I guess he is naive to the fact that we can all see through this wafer thin shield he is putting up. Acting like the good will ambassador, at a time when your name is being dragged through the mud, doesn’t make people look the other way. All he is doing is bringing attention to himself at a time when he should be focused between the white lines.
Nadal’s use of banned substances is something I am very sure of. Where there is smoke there is fire and this one is burning brightly. The only problem is I don’t have proof. But every inch of my gut tells me Nadal is cheating just like many athletes out there. These guys would rather win majors then live long, healthy lives. The push to win these grand slams has never been greater. And guys like Nadal, who are chasing history, will do anything to get there. Is there a doping/drug problem in tennis? Absolutely! Are the WTA and ATP tours keeping most of this information quiet? Yes – they have to! Tennis is still a fringe sport in North America and this kind of scandal could be disastrous. Only the no-names are being exposed. The giants of the game are being treated with kid gloves in order to maintain their honour, popularity and stardom.
Remember Martina Hingis and her accelerated retirement? This was sped up in order to protect her illustrious character as one of the game’s greatest players of all time because rumours persisted she was caught using drugs. A ban for a month or two for drug use would have ruined the legacy of this superstar athlete and all of her monumental accomplishments. The WTA tour couldn’t afford this stain on its reputation when the tour’s popularity was at an all-time low. So the two sides came to an agreement – an early retirement was the only option. Any other decision could have been catastrophic.
Why do you think Nadal skipped last year’s Olympics? Do you really believe it was due to his bum knee? I don’t!
The Olympics have the most stringent testing procedures known to man. Nadal, and his surrounding team made a wise decision to take the high road prior to this global event. They knew they couldn’t mask the PED’s in London with so much visibility during the Olympics. They realized they can beat an ATP sanctioned event but not an ITF sanctioned event where the testing is quadrupled. Rafa, like Lance, has beaten many tests. But he knew it was just a matter of time, if he put himself out there in front of the drug hounds at the Olympic Games, that he’d be caught.
Nadal has bad knees – that I believe wholeheartedly. And he needed the time to rest his knees and cleanse his system from the drugs. These things take time. That’s why Lance needed so long to get back on the saddle. His burning desire to compete and win at the same time got the better of him. He shouldn’t have raced in 2009. This is a decision that will haunt him for the rest of time.
Have you seen what Nadal looks like these days? Is it his long lost brother?
Nadal’s frame, prior to the layoff, was massive. Now he looks half the size. When he came back to the tour for his first event in south America in February I did not recognize him. What can be the answer for such a drastic reduction in muscle mass? The simple answer is Performance Enhancing Drugs. Nadal was on them, and now he’s not.
His brilliant performance in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open last weekend was due to his hard work on the court, concurrently with the blood doping, which was not being tested at Indian Wells. He outlasted Del Potro in dominating style in the final set – he was not going to be denied, and the only answer can be his increased stamina due to the blood doping. He looked as fresh as a daisy in the hot humid California air, while Del Potro resembled a boxer doing the rope-a-dope. Del Potro was staggering around like he was drunk near the latter stages of the match. Nadal’s Hard work alone could not achieve these stunning results at such an early stage of the comeback.
As mentioned, Rafa’s name has been associated with Dr. Fuentes. If and when Dr. Fuentes ever names his clients, speculation is out there that Nadal would be front and centre on this enormous roster. This list includes Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who are now branded as drug cheaters forever.
Furthermore, and what is striking, is that many marquee names that have been mentioned by Fuentes, such as Nadal, or even most of Spain’s World Cup soccer team, seem to have been blatantly ignored by the sporting authorities and governing bodies. Fuentes has been quoted as saying, “if I talked, the Spanish team would be stripped of their 2010 World Cup victory.”
Finally, and maybe most interestingly, is Nadal’s habit of performing brilliantly in the slams and 1000 level events worldwide, and taking time off between these events in order to rest. Rather than struggle through these lesser events, he chooses not to play. Having regular gaps (nobody does this better than Nadal) from major to major is often seen as an indicator of an athlete following a specific cycle in the use of certain stimulants.
As mentioned already, I can’t prove this, but I’d bet every last penny I’m correct in my opinion. Is he or isn’t he? Your guess is as good as mine!