Rafael Nadal has not been deaf to the rumors he calls scandalous but have nevertheless circulated during his seven months long lay-off from top-flight competitive tennis; that his absence has been down to a deal brokered with the International Tennis Federation and ATP World Tour, to cover up possible doping offences.
However the winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, believes a major reason for the doubt that has arisen in some areas is the lack of transparency adopted by the tennis authorities over drug testing. In addition Nadal believes that the names of those implicated in the ongoing Spanish “Operation Puerto” trial into blood doping must be provided if the image of sportsmen and women in general is to be cleared up.
In an interview with the French sports daily L’Equipe published on Thursday, the Spanish tennis star said he felt his reputation, and that of Spanish sport as a whole, had been tarnished by the trial.
“This kind of rumor is because the [doping] controls are not public,” said Nadal has missed both last year’s US Open and last month’s Australian Open as well as the Olympic Games, and dropped out of the top four in the ATP World Tour rankings because of the absence that ran from Wimbledon to the ongoing VTR Open in Vina del Mar, Chile.
“The ITF should play transparency and WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) the same. Otherwise, it will continue and I will still listen to Christophe Rochus [the Belgian former player who has alleged that doping is rife in men’s tennis] do his stupid comments without any evidence. I find it incredible that we can write or publish such accusations without proof. Give me proof and it will be fine.”
Rochus, who retired last year, was recently insistent that doping is prevalent in tennis although he did not name any specific players in his revelations. More recently Dick Pound, the former head of WADA, also said he is convinced tennis has a deep underlying drug culture that needs to be exposed.
Nadal maintained he’d been tested nine times during the absence caused by knee problems and then a stomach virus; four times in the past two weeks. “If we decide that I will be monitored every week, no problem,” he said. “I want to be sure that whoever plays in front of me is as clean as me. If all checks are made public, that is the end of all this suspicion that kills the sport.”
A judge presiding over Operation Puerto has refused to demand that doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the suspected mastermind of one of the sporting world’s biggest blood doping rackets, provide the names of athletes implicated in the scandal.
The ruling could avert a huge fall-out from the high-profile trial in Madrid but Nadal insisted naming names would have been the correct in the circumstances. “What is happening in Spain, I don’t understand it,” he said. “I don’t understand why doctor Fuentes is not giving names. And I don’t understand why the judge has not asked him to do so.
“I don’t understand why we never get to the bottom of these things. We need to clean everything up. I believe this doctor has worked with foreign athletes but because he is Spanish it is Spanish sport that is being prejudiced. “As an athlete that hurts me. Because of people like Lance Armstrong, we all have a dubious image.”
©Daily Tennis News Wire