tennis

Wilander: ‘Nadal is no drugs cheat’

Swede defends Spaniard after he was named in Fancy Bear doping leak

18:52 September 20, 2016

Dubai: Mats Wilander has leapt to the defence of Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard was found to have obtained Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to take banned substances, on Monday.

The 14-time Grand Slam winner is now one of 66 athletes to have had confidential medical records leaked by Russian hacking group Fancy Bear after they stole World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) files and published their findings online.

Nadal’s case has caught the most attention because in March he said he would sue former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot after she alleged his 2012 injury lay-off was as a result of a positive drugs test.

This latest leak reveals that Nadal received injections of anti-inflammatory drug Tetracosactide in 2009 and 2012, which stimulates the production of corticosteroids.

It follows Maria Sharapova’s two-year ban after testing positive for Meldonium at this year’s Australian Open in January. But she claimed to be caught out because the drug was only added to the list at the start of the year.

“There’s always going to be someone who will try to take advantage of certain situations but his name is not Rafael Nadal that’s for sure,” seven-time Grand Slam winning Swede Wilander told Gulf News on Tuesday.

“If you get permission from the organisation that conducts drugs tests and will call upon you if you fail, and they recommend the dose and supervise its use then it’s completely different.

“That’s between the international federation and the doping agency. The player then takes the drug for rehabilitation purposes and so long as it’s out of their system before they get back on court and nothing is gained performance-wise then it’s fine.

“You can trust players 100 per cent, you can trust the culture of tennis in general and the individuals. The problem arises if you can’t trust the organisation but that’s a completely different level of problem.

“I’m not sure there’s been a case in tennis where someone knows they are cheating and are trying to get away with it. Often it just happens by mistake with players being naive.

“In Sharapova’s case I think it was an honest mistake, she didn’t realise it was on the banned substance list as of January 1.

“She’s a fighter and a winner and never intended to take advantage, it’s the fault of her own and those around her but she ultimately takes responsibility. As an athlete you have to be completely 100 per cent checked up on all these different rule changes.”

The former World No. 1 added that tennis was an honest sport and added of allegations: “This is not the tennis I know and grew up with and have worked in professionally for the past 35 years.

“We’ve always policed one another whether it be against coaching from the sidelines, to line decisions being called by players at lower levels where there is no chair umpire. It’s like golf in that respect, there’s a culture of honesty in tennis that we’ve not lost, and we are always trying to become more honest.”

Wilander was talking to Gulf News ahead of his participation in an attempt to break world records in a 24-hour tennis marathon, which is taking place at Grand Hyatt’s courts in Dubai from November 11 to 12.

Himself and Nadal are the only two men in tennis history to have won at least two Grand Slams on each of the three surfaces, he achieved this on grass despite never winning the Wimbledon because two of his Australian Open wins were won on grass in the pre-hard court era.