Fore! USTA chairman Larry Scott tweeted his commitment to get each of the players in Friday’s first and second rounds of the US Open in compliance with WADA guidelines. And right alongside him was Roger Federer.
The Davis Cup captain explained that it wasn’t only an option of proof, but the protocol is more important than that.
“WADA’s scientific assessment is that a vaccine will work as well as the drug,” Federer said. “I’ll admit, I’m not 100 percent aware on this one. But if it’s easy to obtain and it doesn’t affect concentration or your performance, yeah, I mean, I think everyone should be responsible and follow that.”
Tennis authorities have long been urging players to get a tetanus shot in conjunction with the anti-doping program. The German Tennis Federation required pre-qualifying players to get vaccinated a few weeks ago for US Open qualifying, according to the German newspaper Bild.
But in addition to winning matches, the tennis community has also been fueled by a controversy of its own regarding anti-doping.
At the US Open, the men’s tennis grand slam where Sam Querrey won his second-round match Thursday night over Marin Cilic, there are now just four men and one woman among the top 15 players from the men’s draw with no previous doping suspension.
Nick Kyrgios, who was suspended for 10 months by Tennis Australia for “bringing the game into disrepute,” still is in the draw for the first round, while both Dustin Brown and Fabio Fognini were forced to withdraw from the US Open with injuries. The 23-year-old Brown, a wild card entry in the US Open, revealed he was injected with EPO, a substance that has been banned.
And Federer, the five-time champion at Flushing Meadows, admitted that his four-month ban after testing positive for fever and asthma medicine led him to believe the anti-doping program was broken and invited suspicion.
“I knew that this year they were testing and I knew that people got suspended because they were positive,” Federer said. “I have always respected the game. If you tell me the truth, that I have taken the same thing, I would be OK.”
His skepticism of the anti-doping program rubbed off on Murray, who also tested positive for corticosteroids in Barcelona two years ago.
“I’ve always had the opinion that that is an overreaction,” he said. “I always thought that I should have played a competition. So for me it was kind of odd that this happened.”
Regardless of how these cases have played out, players have clearly begun to view doping in a different light, with players like Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, acknowledging that he didn’t drink coffee beforehand, even if he thought it gave him an advantage.
How a drug like EPO goes unnoticed and not known in a sport where every detail of the surface and even the lines of a tennis ball is tracked down is still an issue tennis authorities will have to contend with. But athletes need to be informed and players have a personal responsibility.