If Gasquet Did It
May 18, 2009 · Print This Article
Disclaimer: This article is not condemning Gasquet just yet, rather exploring the hypothetical situation of an ATP player being caught for taking cocaine.
Being a professional tennis player is a great gig. You travel the world, train in the sun, and are not hampered by the traditional constraints of a team. With the recent news surrounding the Gasquet camp, I can’t help but struggle with my own opinions on the matter. The youthful and very liberal part of me wants to say “who cares if he did a little cocaine, it’s not like it’s helping his game.” Or, like Safin, suggest that testing for doping is “becoming very intrusive”. But when I really think about the precedent and message that comes out of turning a blind eye to the extra-curricular activities of men on the tour, I can’t help but side with the more conservative and pro-establishment point of view.
When you become a professional player you are held to a higher standard than the average person for a reason: you represent the ATP tour, your sponsors, and an image that kids latch on to and emulate. Players live the good life and in return have to make a few sacrifices. If you can’t refrain from putting some powder up your nose than you are showing that you want to have your cake and eat it too. I do not think that taking coke has any major effect on a player’s game (unless of course they are always on it), but rather it just isn’t a responsible thing to do (and even less responsible to get caught).
I feel bad for Gasquet; he’s young. I’m sure he feels terrible right about now. But if he’s old enough to play on a men’s tour, and reap all the benefits, then he is old enough to know to steer clear of drugs like cocaine. As for the two year ban, I do think it’s harsh. I would call for a new rule whereby players are banned from all majors for the year, and hopefully some sponsorship money would be lost too. Maybe a two year ban (or more) is appropriate for repeat offenders. I joked with a reader of this website that perhaps a ‘toxic asset’ like Hingis and potentially Gasquet should be relegated, for a time, to a Holiday Inn while travelling to tournaments, or that their winnings are capped at a normal salary like $70,000 USD. My point was to bring back into perspective (for the players) the perks of being an athlete, and how minor a sacrifice it is to refrain from using recreational drugs. And by the way, a lot of people do cocaine to temporarily feel like a celebrity. So if you already are one, it can only be doing harm. The rules are saving these athletes from themselves.
I’m also a sucker for the tennis fan who pays good money to see a tournament. In this case, Gasquet is an underachieving player. I don’t think the slide in his ranking (7th in 2007 to 21st today) has been entirely (or even largely) because he parties too much, but I bet it’s not helping. Allowing players to do drugs devalues the product for the fans. If a player wants to do drugs because it makes an already ridiculously glamorous and fun party even more amazingly awesome seeming, then I suggest they become actors (or rock stars).
End note: the last sentence is not meant to conjure up images of McEnroe, Gerulaitis, Cash and Noah playing a concert in 1992 in….gulp….Paris.
What are your thoughts on the issue?