This and That

by Savannah

It’s been quite some time since I’ve used up cyber ink to post about tennis. A lot has happened hasn’t it? Where to start? How about with some positives.

A couple of years ago I chose a then virtually unknown teenager named Alexander Zverev as my one to watch. As I write this he’s made his first ATP M1000 final defeating John Isner in three sets. It should’ve been over in two sets but for a bit of a walkabout by Sascha in the second set but there’s no need to quibble. Of course now everyone and their brother is on the Zverev bandwagon and it feels good to say I was one of the first to see his potential. His emotions are under much tighter control now but those diva-ish moments still happen.

Venus Williams is still striding her way through women’s tennis head high and ruining peoples days. She doesn’t win everything anymore but she goes deep enough in tournaments to keep her ranking in the top ten. Good for her.

Speaking of Venus someone asked why Tommy Haas is still playing at his age. I answered this way. Both Haas (never been a fan) and Venus could be thinking the best years of their tennis lives were disrupted by injury and illness. Now that they’re as healthy and fit as they can be they want to do what they love and that is play tennis. Why not? Tennis journalists were praising Andre Agassi to the heavens if I recall correctly. Martina Navratilova played until she couldn’t anymore. There’s precedent for this. If an older player manages their schedule and adjusts their training and diet to keep them in peak form I say let them play.

While senior players are looking after themselves and enjoying their wins it seems the Brits are in a spot of bother about their stars. When I say that of course I’m talking about Andrew Murray who, after losses on his least favorite surface said he felt maybe he should be worried. It’s not that he was losing he was losing early. Murray just turned 30 and is now at the age where back in the day tennis players would be looking for something else to do. That said, I think the Brits need to calm down. Murray’s style of play is, at least in my opinion, an acquired taste. When he’s on he’s on. When he’s not, he’s just not. They’re also trying to downplay that he had shingles, a very painful skin condition and one that takes a while to recover from. I guess they’re freaking out because after Murray there really isn’t anyone. Yes they’re pushing Kyle Edmund and legend in his own mind Dan Evans but really Edmund, if he can find a way to beat his contemporaries on a regular basis, could become top twenty it looks like that possibility is still in the realm of wishful thinking.

As for the British women who is there besides Johanna Konta? It looks as if Laura Robson, once the fair haired girl (and like Konta also an Aussie import) won’t be more than an ITF player. Heather Watson? Again nothing has changed. When she reaches the business end of a shot, let alone a match, her decision making makes you wonder where her brain is. Every now and then she stirs herself to get a good result but for the most part it’s second, maybe third round, and out.

Meanwhile in the US we’re not much better off than the Brits. At least their man is ranked number 1. Diminutive Lauren Davis has been our most consistent player. I don’t see Madison Keys winning a major although with the right draw she could come close. Catherine Bellis, Louisa Chirico, Taylor Fritz, and Reilly Opelka are the ones getting all the hype from the USTA but it was Frances Tiafoe who got a win over Jeremy Chardy and young Ernesto Escobedo who are out there doing the hard work. As always with US tennis it comes down to expectations based on who you are vs talent no matter who you are. That’s why Naomi Osaka is playing for Japan and not the United States. The USTA didn’t want her. The Japanese federation jumped right in and the rest is history. Unfortunately Tiafoe, whose family is from Sierra Leone, and Escobedo, whose family comes from Mexico, have not other rich Federation ready to come in and throw money at them. Both young men are American by birth so it’s the USTA they have to deal with.

I mentioned the ATP top player so it’s only fair to mention the WTA’s top ranked player, Angelique Kerber. She’s not having fun this year at all. She’s ranked number one because Serena Williams is expecting her first child in late summer. Keep in mind the WTA rushed out PR touting her attaining the top ranking before the new rankings were official at the end of last year. There was all kinds of talk from tennis journalists about how she would dominate. Welp. Once again we see it’s easier being the hunter than the hunted. She may fluke her way to another Slam but right now it looks as if she’s running scared. Waiting in the wings is Karolina Pliskova. Her game is still what it has been, one dimensional and if you make her have to move and bend you’ve got a good chance of beating her. But if things continue as they are she could be the next number one player.

If you think I’m talking about everything but the one topic that is dominating the tennis world I am. There isn’t much to say on the subject. I’ve felt from the beginning that the ITF recommendation of a four year ban was the right way to go. The two year ban, while a slap on the wrist in my opinion, was a good compromise. When the CAS threw out the ITF report and decided, based on nothing but PR, that the suspension should be reduced there was nothing to do but throw up your hands.

What’s even worse is that the WTA has pulled out all the stops to try and make it seem everyone, her peers and the press, thought she’d be done wrong and that the doping ban was equivalent to an injury or pregnancy break. It’s not. Thankfully the French Tennis Federation threw a huge bucket of cold water on those who, in my opinion, were leading the charge to destroy women’s tennis with their shenanigans. No Main Draw Wild Cards for dopers. End of story. To avoid a second embarrassment she and her team rightly decided that they would accept what they’ve got and play Qualies at Wimbledon.

Steve Simon, the hapless head of the WTA, has put a lot of effort into trying to rehabilitate a doper. Meanwhile it’s almost impossible to see a women’s tennis match and it doesn’t seem that anything is happening on that front. In the final analysis tennis fanatics are tennis fanatics. If they can’t see the version they love they’ll look at what is available. By the time the WTA get’s it’s thumb out of it’s ass they will have lost many fans to men’s tennis which is easy to see on many platforms.

So many have worked so hard to promote women’s tennis as a sport not a side show. It hurts to see it reduced to its current state. Yes I’ve said this before and I have to keep saying it. I don’t get paid to write this blog so I’m beholden to no one but myself. If Steve Simon is representative of the upper echelon of US tennis no wonder the USTA is in the state it’s in. Maybe if they stopped giving each other awards and focused on marketing the sport and developing talent no matter where it comes from maybe, just maybe, a US player can hold up a trophy from a major tournament.

End Note

Roland Garros. While the clay season continues in Europe and South America this tournament is the official end of the clay court season for much of the main tour. As usual I’m sad to see it come to an end. From the start of the Golden Swing to the last match in Paris I feel you see tennis at its best. The physical and the mental, combined with creativity, all come into play during a clay court match in the way it doesn’t on other surfaces. Each shot is a question or an answer. The ante is raised during each rally until someone makes a declarative statement meant to close out the discussion. It’s beautiful to watch.

© Savannahs World 2017 All Rights Reserved

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and DHEA – A Love Story

by Savannah

TUE-Gate is still going on. So far three top African American females and one lesbian WNBA player’s record releases have gooten the most coverage from the media. That said media obviously doesn’t understand what “out of competition” means or that an opiate (think heroin, morphine, oxy) would give no in competition advantage to anyone their mewlings can be dismissed out of hand.
What is interesting is that the press, with one exception, has ignored a much bigger story. It involves the US tennis player Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her attempts to get a TUE for her use of male synthetic hormone (testosterone) due to the imminent collapse of her adrenal system (kidneys).

Yesterday on a fan site someone calling themselves “Marlene” released a heavily redacted CAS hearing result on an athlete. We know it was a woman due to the conclusions drawn. We know it was an United States citizen because the doctor involved resides in Arizona. It soon became obvious who the athlete was since the TUE she requested had been made public.

The CAS report is a sobering read on how an athlete can try and game the system and how in the end, the system of checks and balances did work. The report is seventeen pages long so I will excerpt from the conclusions only.

6.15 In her submissions as part of the TUE application process and this proceeding, both Dr.
Serrano and Dr. Larrimer attributed the Appellant’s symptoms to hypopituitarism. Dr.
Serrano, in his August 17, 2014 letter to the 1TF TUEC wrote “{mjy initial opinion was
and still is that of hypopituitarism,” while Dr. Larrimer concluded in his July 25, 2014
letter, “Ida believe she has Hypopituitarism, “1

6.16 The Respondent challenged the accuracy of that diagnosis in its Answer and at the hearing, on a number of grounds, including submitting evidence that:
• Hypopituitarism is a malfunction between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. The
relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland plays a critical role in the
secretion of several hormones in the body, including the production of Cortisol through the
adrenal gland. If this relationship was malfunctioning, one would expect that secretion of
all, or at least several, of these hormones would be inhibited. The inhibited productions
would be demonstrable in blood tests. However, in the blood tests collected closest in time
to the Appellant’s doctors’ diagnosis of hypopituitarism, nothing indicates that any of the
hormones that rely on the pituitary gland, other than Cortisol, which as discussed appeared
depleted beginning in 2013, were at all deficient This is inconsistent with hypopituitarism,
• The effect of hypopituitarism would be that the adrenal gland could not function without
lifetime treatment. This is paradoxical to the Appellant’s doctors’ assertions that, under
the proper supervision and circumstances, the Athlete could been weaned off of
hydrocortisone or other Cortisol supplementation.
6.17 At the heaving, Dr. Serrano acknowledged that he was not an expert in endocrinology, but
conceded a number of the criticisms levied by the Respondent. He also seemingly
attempted to backtrack from his own diagnosis of hypopituitarism by suggesting that his diagnosis was based on Dr. Larrimer’s diagnosis of the same. Two troubling aspects of this position are that (i) it is at odds with his contemporaneous submission in which he
stated that his initial opinion, presumably dating back to 2012, was that the Appellant
suffered from hypopituitarism, and (ii) despite apparent rehance Dr. Larrimer’s diagnosis, he was Unable to offer any insight into how Dr. Larrimer came to his conclusion.3
6.18 Accordingly, there is serious doubt that hypopituitarism could be the proper diagnosis of the Appellant’s adrenal insufficiency, regardless of when said deficiency manifested itself, meaning that the Appellant has likely still not yet been properly diagnosed.4

C. DHEA and Symptoms

6.19 Finally, one matter that raises doubts about the appropriateness of DHEA specifically as a treatment for the Appellant, that has yet to be adequately explained by the Appellant or her expert, is the juxtaposition of the timing of the manifestation of her symptoms, her DHEA use, and her objective blood and salivary tests.

6.20 By her own account,^ B symptoms began in 2010 and continued on and
off for 2 years before she saw Dr. Serrano and before she was a granted the HC TUE in December 2012.

6.21 But as discussed above, the blood and salivary tests from September and November 2012, the period of time before the Appellant began taking HC, unequivocally show that the Appellant’s Cortisol and DHEA levels were within, or above, the reference range for her demographic. In other words, during one of the periods when the Appellant’s impairments were at their worst, her Cortisol and DHEA levels were not depleted, Without questioning the Appellant’s veracity in stating that she felt better while talcing DHEA, it is difficult then to reconcile the objective evidence with her doctors’ recommendations that simply increasing her DHEA levels back to normal level today should cure her symptoms (notwithstanding any other potentially beneficial medical reasons to do so).
6.22 Considering all of these points, the Sole Arbitrator must conclude that the lack of a clear diagnosis of an existing medical condition is fatal to the Appellant’s appeal.

6.23 Because the failure to adequately identify a medical condition in itself precludes the granting of a TUE, there is no need to address the remaining standards at this time. But nothing in this opinion should be interpreted to suggest that, should the Appellant undergo further examination and receive a verifiable diagnosis – which the Sole Arbitrator strongly
advises her to do – any treatment options are precluded, as the Appellant’s health is obviously of Critical importance.
6.24 In this connection, the Parties agreed that an abrupt termination of the Appellant’s HC treatment could adversely affect her health. As a result, she must be given some time to reduce her current intake of HC and replace it by a treatment that addresses her properly diagnosed indication, subject to the cumulative conditions for granting a TUE set forth in Article 4.1(a)-(d) of the International Standard. The Sole Arbitrator considers that the
Appellant would have sufficient time to achieve this by April 30.2015.
6.25 The Appellant must therefore be authorized to continue to take HC, at levels no higher than permitted in the Appealed Decision until the Appellant is granted a new TUE by the ITF TUEC, based on a proper medical diagnosis but in any event no later than April 30. 2015. For the avoidance of doubt, the Appealed Decision’s revocation of the DHEA TUE is confirmed.

If that is too much for you here’s my summary:

The unnamed athlete went to her governing body, the ITF, and presented documentation that showed she had serious adrenal issues and that she needed hydrocortisone to stop the deterioration of her physical condition. The athlete and her doctor then said that the HC was not sufficient and he recommended adding DHEA to her course of treatment. The ITF approved the diagnosis and proposed treatment and routinely sent the information to WADA where cooler heads prevailed and the addition of DHEA was denied. Further investigation showed that the original doctors statements were contradictory and the conclusion was reached that the athlete had still not received a proper diagnosis of what the root cause of her stated symptoms were. The CAS also asked for the athlete to pay for all costs associated with her appeal.

There were whispers about who the athlete was (don’t forget this report is from 2015) but no one seemed interested in pursuing the publicly available, non-redacted report until now.

You can like or dislike a journalist but when he/she is doing a public service you have to give him or her credit for what they’ve done.

In his report for the New York Times Ben Rothenberg not only named the athlete, <strong> Bethanie Mattek-Sands </strong> but revealed some information about her doctor. No one has challenged his report. Instead there’s been deafening silence from the ITF, the USTA and the WTA. Despite her TUE being denied Mattek-Sands played for over a year using DHEA, “an endogenous steroid hormone.” WebMD says the following “it functions as a precursor to male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.”

Meanwhile the campaign to try and discredit the four women who were first outted by the hack continues unabated.

Tennis fans need answers. How could the ITF grant exemptions in this situation when the medical reports didn’t jibe with any known medical results. It’s very clear. If “A” is happening then so should “B, C or D”. If B, C or D isn’t happening then how can “A” be happening? It’s not rocket science.

Secondly how the hell wasn’t this made public and Mattek-Sands not receive some kind of discipline from her Federation (The USTA) or the WTA tour where she remains a top doubles player. If she was penalized in any way by either organization they’ve been very quiet about it. It’s situations like this that allow internet trolls to push meme’s saying the entire system is rotten in order to make one player’s situation appear normal and not out of the ordinary.

So what about it USTA? What about it ITF? What about it WTA? Are you all running around a room screaming and pulling your hair out by the roots? This report is over a year old and to this fan nothing whatsoever has been done to Ms Mattek-Sands. I wonder if the same “hands off let’s pretend it didn’t happen “attitude would have prevailed if some other athletes had done the same thing.

So far this is the only report that shows how an athlete tried to game the system. That the system worked in the end is small consolation.

©2016 Savannahs World Tennis all rights reserved

 

Maria Sharapova Files an Appeal To CAS

by Savannah

During the press conference where she shocked to tennis world saying said she’d “made a mistake” Maria Sharapova indicated she would go along with whatever punishment was meted out.

As with everything else about Ms Sharapova that was a lie too. The world had barely begun reading the report when Ms Sharapova angrily announced that she would appeal the reduced sentence of two years for being unjustly harsh. This morning the Media Release below appeared from the CAS:

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In her appeal Ms Sharapova is asking that the entire ruling be set aside and that she face no ban or one of less than two years. Talk about big brass ones.

Publicly her team is saying much of the same thing they said before: Sharapova is disliked and envied for her fame and fortune and that the tribunal therefore biased against her. A lot of criticism has been directed against the tribunal for delving into her past by those still in her corner as if Ms Sharapova didn’t open that particular door herself. The pattern of lies and deceit is laid out clearly in the report and shows that everything done by her and her father led to her not being aware that her drug of choice was now a banned substance.

I’m not a legal expert and I don’t pretend to understand all the fancy Latin phrases used by that discipline but I can state the following:

  • Sharapova’s lawyer(s) are pinning their hopes on being able to appoint one member of the tribunal. What they don’t say is that they must choose from a list of about 353 people authorized to act in that capacity. These people are also closely monitored so that any attempted hanky panky shouldn’t happen. That said we’ve all read about what’s gone on with FIFA so what shouldn’t happen often does.
  • The “they’re all haters” argument seems to be in play again.
  • If either of Ms Sharapova’s requests in the appeal is granted it would mean the entire anti doping movement would have to start over from square one not only for her but for every athlete on the planet.
  • If she brings up new evidence the panel has the ability to exclude it if it can be shown that it could have been brought up to the initial tribunal before the judgement was rendered.
  • It’s unknown at this time if WADA, the ITF, and the IOC will appeal. They have until the June 27th to do so if they wish.
  • If Ms Sharapova is the only party to appeal the CAS can’t make the suspension longer. The ITF and/or WADA would have to ask for that.

Some are already talking about the breathtaking arrogance in the wording of and the request(s) contained in the media release. Added to the picture you get reading the initial report this is not adding to Ms Sharapova’s image.

Did she have to appeal? Of course she did. The sponsors that began paying her again cited her intent to appeal while touting the panels very narrow finding that her drugging was “unintentional”.

We’ll know the answers to all of our questions by July 18, 2016.

©SavannahsWorld 2016 All Rights reserved