Tennis has always been seen as a middle-class . A sport watched and played by ‘ladies and gentlemen’, the modern game took shape in the 1800s. Fast-Forward 150 years and it is one of the most popular sports in the world with an average of 45 countries represented in the top 100 rankings for both men and women.
But the game was thrown into disrepute when one of its mega stars – Maria Sharapova – tested positive for the recently banned drug Meldonium.
The drug was banned as WADA found it helped aid performance of athletes by virtue of carrying more oxygen to muscle tissue thus making it a performance enhancing drug.
She was given a one-year ban, and subsequently will go back to competition from 26 January 2018. Many argue she got off lightly, as if she had been found guilty of violating anti-doping rules, she could have faced the maximum four-year ban.
But should the sanction have been longer? Was it right?
The game has since been thrown into further disregard after Great Britain’s number five ranked male, Dan Evans tested positive for cocaine. Evans has found himself with the same sentence ban as the Russian, with a potential four-year ban reduced to one year.
An expert, Dr. Pascal Kintz, speaking to BBC Sport, said the amount of cocaine taken by the Briton was no more than 3mg – a quantity that is “Inconsistent with knowing ingestion and consistent instead with inadvertent contamination.” That being said, can it be argued that a ban of that length is really necessary? If we think about the sanction, can we really say for sure what it will achieve?
If Cocaine isn’t a performance enhancing drug, does that make the Brit a cheat? Unlike Sharapova, it can be argued that Evans was not taking a performance enhancing substance. The 27-year-old managed to reach a career-high ranking of 41 back in March, but has been knocked down the rankings to 135 because of his inactivity. This will only get worse, as he is not due back in competition until 24 April 2018.
Which means that no prize money will be paid to the Brit until after that date. A harsh sanction many would argue. But on the contrary, being found in possession of cocaine is law breaking – punishable by up to 7 years in prison in some circumstances.
Are we seeing a case of ‘special treatment’ for Evans because he’s a professional sportsman? And should he count himself lucky at not facing a harder sanction from the International Tennis Ferderation (ITF)?
Every sports star always has a choice. With performance enhancing drugs, there is always an argument that athletes were either ill-advised on the substances they were taking, or taking them for medical purposes only
But, found in possession of a Class A stimulant and recreational drug, with no suggestion of performance enhancement, it’s hard to argue the same for Evans.