Have Steroids Crept Into Tennis?

The Steroid Era: We’re living in it, we’re experiencing it and just waiting to see who’ll be the next superstar to fall from grace.

In the past five or six years, the steroid culture has come to light, and it now makes sense why Barry Bonds hit 73 homeruns in one season, why Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador won the Tour de France, why Brian Cushing won the rookie of the year in football, and why, according to Yannik Noah (1983 French Open winner), Rafael Nadal and the Spaniards on tour have been so dominant.

Noah’s comments against the Spaniards seem to have come out of nowhere, but upon further investigation, it seems as though Noah is looking for an excuse as to why the French are a little behind on the ATP Tour. This holds no weight because the French have four players in the top 20 compared to Spain’s four. Yes, Spain and France have the same amount of players in the top twenty. But is this really a question of who is doing it, or who isn’t.

In this steroid era, athletes and their accomplishments will continue to be questioned until there are no possible ways that there could even be a remote chance of performance enhancing drugs in sports. The problem with this is that we can never be completely sure. We never thought there were PED’s in sports until the Barry Bonds case unraveled and BALCO’s owner came out with a list of over 100 athletes names tied to PED’s.

It’s scary to think just how big and prevalent steroids could be in professional sports. Tennis is the latest sport to be wrapped up in PED controversy. The fact of the matter is that neither Rafael Nadal, nor any of the Spaniards or French have ever tested positive for PED’s, and the last person in tennis to be tied to HGH, or human growth hormone, was American Wayne Odesnik, who was caught importing HGH into Australia before an Australian Open tune-up event. He was banned for two years but it was reduced to one year. He has since been reinstated.

It seems the risk-reward factor comes into play, but the reward is so much higher than the risk. Say Nadal is taking steroids. No one has found out, and he has 10 majors, that is 10 more than 98% of tennis players will get. Now say he gets caught, will he be banned? Most likely, but will he be stripped of his titles? There are no preceding cases to determine the punishment.

There’s no way to know athletes are using unless there are serious signs (bulging forehead, weak body, ‘roid rage’ etc). While Rafael Nadal shows no signs of these, except maybe a frail body at times, you can’t sit there and say, “Oh, he has bad knees. He MUST be using steroids!” There needs to be specific evidence pointing to an individual. Maybe increase the amount of tests given, find new ways to test athletes.

The major problem with the public’s view of PED’s in general is that they don’t realize that this sort of thing could be as prevalent as the use of Gatorade, or energy gels, and could span all the way from unsuspecting 15-year-old’s taking some ‘power juice’ to the 28-year-old journeyman who’s lived his life on the challenger circuit all his life.

The real problem is the effect on the children who look up to these players. Knowing their favorite players cheated to the top sets a terrible example for them. They may think that, “Hey, Alex Rodriguez cheated to get to the top, why can’t I?” Or even, “Wow, Rafael Nadal and some other Spaniards took steroids to get to the top, if it worked for them, it can work for me!”

Steroids are debilitating and destroy your body. They make your bones weaker, increase estrogen levels in men, increase testosterone levels in women, and overall make you unhealthy.

The fact of the matter is that big name athletes as well as no-name athletes should be tested in Tennis and all sports for performance enhancing drugs and any other illegal substances. If there is in fact a steroid problem in Tennis, we need to swoop in and fix it before it turns into an MLB-like debacle. There must be a fine line with no gray area, stating that an athlete has either used PED’s or not used PED’s, that way the integrity of the sport remains at it’s highest. Hopefully this can stop people like Yannick Noah from claiming one of the sport’s greatest players ever cheated his way to the top.

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