As Gasquet returns from doping ban, ITF should revisit Hingis case
While the 16 remaining players in the men's draw competed at Wimbledon on June 29,
But in a considerable upset, the International Tennis Federation's panel ruled Wednesday that Gasquet inadvertently took the cocaine. He was cleared to play after completing a 2½-month ban, which ended Wednesday. The three-person tribunal found credible Gasquet's defense that the trace amounts of cocaine had entered his system when he kissed a woman in a Miami nightclub.
"We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character," the tribunal said in its ruling. "He is neither a cheat nor a user of drugs for recreational purposes."
While Gasquet declared himself "elated," his fate contrasted sharply with that
As with Gasquet, the case was circumstantially suspect. Over the course of her career, Hingis had been subject to dozens of random, unannounced tests and passed them all. Would she really purposefully ingest cocaine right before Wimbledon, when she knew she would be tested? There were additional questions about the "chain of custody." Hingis' sample sat in a Wimbledon locker and was transferred to the WADA lab in Montreal, and she suggested that the specimen somehow became contaminated during that time. After all, when she later submitted to a hair follicle test for cocaine, there was no evidence of use.
But unlike Gasquet, Hingis didn't bother with a rigorous appeal. Could she have contacted the cocaine handling money or drinking out of someone else's water glass? Sure. But, really, who knew? And besides, under the strict liability standard, it didn't much matter. She tested positive, therefore she was guilty. Rather than "take on this doping machinery," as she put it at the time, Hingis declined to go through a long and expensive appeal process. Instead she quit at 27, retiring for a second time.
Her case, though, proceeded and even in retirement, Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion and Hall of Fame shoo-in, was hit with a two-year ban. Coincidentally, on the day Gasquet was appealing his result in London last month, Hingis was in town as well. She'd visited friends at Wimbledon but met them at a house a few hundred yards from the courts; as a condition of her ban, she isn't even allowed to attend a Grand Slam event as a spectator.
Tennis has never stood accused of doing much of anything conventionally, and on doping, it zigs where others zag. Other sports grapple with flawed protocol, obvious testing loopholes and laughably light penalties. Tennis has the opposite problem. A condition for being an Olympic sport, it abides by the rigid WADA code. And without a
In a tacit admission that Hingis was treated too harshly, after her case, the ITF sent players a memo outlining changes to the anti-doping policy. A small clause reads:
It was this bit of discretion that likely enabled Gasquet to escape a two-year ban. The Hingis Rule, we may as well call it.
Even after spending the last three months sidelined, Gasquet is still ranked a respectable No. 32. He will resume his career in a few weeks, and, save for 75 days of unrealized income (and perhaps some sleep), he lost little. Even his reputation survived, especially given the dramatically commuted sentence and glowing praise for his character contained in the decision.
Given Gasquet's fragile and gentle nature, you can't help but be happy for him. You can't help but think justice was served. Still, when Gasquet is done thanking (and paying) his lawyers, you'd hope he'd reach out to Hingis and express a debt of gratitude for her having "taken one for the team." And you'd also hope that the ITF would contact Hingis as well, and rescind her ban immediately. That's the least it could do for a player who didn't want to fight doping machinery, but sure got caught up in its gears.