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?

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2 Responses to “If Gasquet Did It”

  1. Brendan Morrison on May 18th, 2009 10:56 pm

    I completely agree that a 2-year ban is far too harsh for a first-time offender of cocaine use. I think that there is a distinction to be drawn when it comes to banned-substances and professional sports, and the penalty should reflect precisely what it is that we are attempting to deter or punish. It seems to me that there can be two categories of drug use (possibly more): the first are performance-enhancing drugs; the second are illicit substances that don’t improve the athlete’s game. While both are worthy of scorn and reprobation, I believe it is important to articulate why we penalize them in the realm of that particular sport (outside the arm of the law) and the punishment should accord to that principle. In the case of performance-enhancing drugs, their use is an affront to the integrity of the game, the fairness of competition, and an insult to the other players and the fans. For this reason, it seems to me that the ATP should punish it quite harshly. Because there is such a strong incentive to use these drugs in professional sports, the punishment must be harsh. A 2-year ban might be perfectly suitable for such drugs. On the other hand, “party” drugs, or the use of substances that are illegal, not merely within the sport itself, but to the public at large, the ATP might punish because it tarnishes the integrity of the group of athletes as a whole slightly or sends a detrimental message to the sport’s youth. It seems to me that these drugs, while certainly deserving of some punishment within the sport, might be much less an infraction than the former category of drugs (at least in terms of the punishment that the ATP dishes out, as opposed to the police). The use of cocaine as it relates to the sport of tennis seems to me less morally reprehensible than performance-enhancing drugs (it relates to conduct outside of the game), and thus warrants something less than a 2-year ban.

    The following is a strong editorial:

  2. Allan on May 19th, 2009 10:32 am

    In most sports today we are dealing with very young athletes, some of whom will have a difficult time dealing with the responsibilities of being a high profile, high earning person. The ATP, in an effort to maintain the integrity of the game has imposed substantial fines for those dealing in “drugs”. Those rules are made known to the players, and guys like Gasquet who circumvent those rules deserve the punishment that was made known to them prior to taking on the risk. It is not unike situations like professional organizations (those governing lawyers and doctors) which create rules for behaviour that often lies outside the bounds of everyday action.

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