Thursday, November 1, 2007
They had to be looking for it.
Sports enterprises are reeling from rumors of rampant steroid use and gambling. The amount of money spent to make sure star athletes are not associating with people who regularly pose holding numbers at chest level is staggering.
While football, European and American, baseball and cycling have struggled with damaging headlines tennis players seemed to be immune from the rockstar image associated with big time sports all around the world. They've been called "boring" and there are few tennis players associated with good times. If you're a regular reader of this space you know that JMac's past drug use has been an open secret and not discussed in proper tennis circles despite his ex wife's book exposing it. Bjorn Borg quit tennis at twenty five and proceeded to live a life of debauchery including admitted s&m frolics and drug use.
But all of this elicits a wink and a smirk from the average tennis fan. Which makes you wonder why the shock waves through not only tennis but newsrooms around the world about Martina Hingis. Late this afternoon CNN had the online equivalent of banner headlines about Martina's announcement. I guess the stock market falling 360 points wasn't newsworthy.
I admit my first reaction was total shock. I was speechless. Martina Hingis a coke head? Someone had to be joking. But it wasn't a joke. Martina faced the press and said that she had tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. She then went on to say she was not a drug abuser and that an independent test on her hair proved that she was innocent despite both samples coming back positive. And then in the most bizarre part of her statement she went on to say she was not going to fight to defend her name and that at 27 she was once again retiring from the sport she loves.
That is the part I don't get. Guillermo Canas, who ingested a banned substance provided to him by an ATP tour doctor is still fighting to clear his name. He's learned English so that he can follow the hearings he has to attend. The man lost 18 months of his life for something he did not intentionally do. If you are innocent Martina then why not fight it? Why not spend some of the millions you've made to prove your innocence and be able to stand up at Newport and listen to your greatness be praised by your peers?
I for one have never been a big fan of Ms Hingis. I didn't like the way her mouth seemed to outrun her brain off the court and the way she wore her arrogance like a merit badge. But in her second incarnation as a tennis player she seemed to have mellowed. She was giving credit to her opponents for their games. The sarcastic smirk was gone. She got engaged. It seemed her life was on track, that the Brat Princess had grown up.
I'm sure there are those who are going to say they knew something was wrong, that she was too thin, that Radek's breaking up with her so abruptly was an omen, blah, blah, blah. None of us on the outside had a clue hence the stunned reactions by the fans.
I also wonder if the person caught abusing drugs had been from South America or of African descent no matter their nationality would there still be the stunned reactions and "innocent until proven guilty" sentiments posted on fan boards? Why are so many willing to accept Martina's protestations of innocence no matter how bizarre and nonsensical?
So what led the WTA to have Martina tested for cocaine? What lab performed the hair test? Will the findings be published? Don't hold your breath for answers.
Larry Scott's statement is a marvel of lawyer speak but I'm not condemning the WTA here. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. They let her leave with her dignity if not her reputation - her mother, who had been there for the good times was at her side for this very bad one. They both worked so hard for so long. Melanie Molitor, her once famous mane now gone smiled broadly for the cameras and urged her child to do the same. The cameras will be there for a different reason now won't they?
Craig has posted all the hard news Here
As fans of tennis to see Martina Hingis fall can't bring joy to anyone.