It’s strange to think that just a few months ago, about the only real coverage or mere mention of doping in tennis came via the long-standing website Tennis Has A Steroid Problem. Though I certainly didn’t agree with everything in it, the site was a must-read because it asked the questions that desperately needed to be asked and discussed what needed to be discussed.
Suddenly, in this unfamiliar post-Armstrong and post-Fuentes world, such questions and discussion on doping have conversely become difficult to avoid. Most recently in the form of tennis consultant/manager Alan Moore – currently affiliated with WTA players Vitalia Diatchenko, Marta Sirokina and Anastasia Rodionova – who interestingly claims that six years ago an unnamed Croatian WTA player represented by his former management company was silently banned for six months after failing a drugs test.
Doctor Luis Garcia del Moral is best known for setting up the doping system for the US Postal cycling team, he also had more than a decade of guiding tennis players at the Spanish TenisVal Academy. A tennis player my former company managed went to train at TenisVal some years ago – breaking her contract to do so. She returned to Croatia leaner, stronger and with notable skin irritations. It came as no surprise that a random drugs test found her to have taken anabolic steroids, amongst other banned drugs. She received a 6 month ban and went back on tour. The governing body of tennis, the ITF, were informed fully of what had happened, yet in the 6 years that have passed nothing has happened.
Naturally, I automatically put on my imaginary detective hat and began perusing t’Internet for Croatian players absent from the tour somewhere around mid-2006 or 2007. The only 2006 year-end top 500 player to fall into this category was actually the one whose name immediately sprung to mind due to the 10 month (initially estimated 6 months) injury break she took in April 2007; everyone’s favourite ball-pummeler (and Marcos Baghdatis’ wife), Karolina Sprem. Still, there is no available information that links Sprem to the TennisVal academy or Moore’s old company, so the player in question could possibly be a non-Croatian national.
Of course, the identity of the player in question is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is that someone involved with women’s players and the women’s tour has disclosed an actual example of the ITF allegedly being actively involved in the much-discussed concept of silently banning a player, or else being aware of player(s) banned for doping and refusing to disclose such information. Interesting indeed.