Tennis Uncategorized

Maria Sharapova and the Meldonium doping scandal

Maria SharapovaWho doesn’t admire Maria Sharapova? All the girls want to be her and all the boys want to be, well, with her.

A fine tennis player indeed. A fine athlete and yet it turns out that all these years she was struggling with a severe heart condition necessitating the use of an unapproved drug that just happens to increase oxygen uptake and stamina. Not that Ms Sharapova was taking it for those reasons of course because that would be cheating. That would be like using EPO. That would turn Maria Sharapova into as big a cheat as Lance Armstrong, and everyone knows that tennis is far cleaner than cycling.

Still, who could have guessed that Maria Sharapova suffered from chronic heart failure requiring constant use of the drug Meldonium for the last decade?

What an achievement for a person with such a serious illness to win the Australian Open, the French Open (twice) and the US Open in the last ten years. It makes all our little petty concerns seem so small compared to the obstacles Sharapova overcame on her way to greatness, battling heart failure to become one of the legendary figures of modern tennis.

The dedication of this great champion was so intense that she didn’t even stick with the recommendations of the drug’s manufacturers that it should be used for no more than four to six weeks at a time, and no more than two or three times in a year. But perhaps that was because she was using it in America where no guidance exists, since the drug is not licensed for use there. And how brave of her personal physician to prescribe the unlicensed drug, risking disbarment and perhaps worse in the intolerant world of US federal drug regulation, though of course, since it can be bought over the counter in Latvia where it’s produced, it is possible that adoring fans simply purchased it and posted it to their idol.

Tennis, it’s fair to say, is a clean sport. There’s no need for all that drug-testing that happens in other codes, and while it’s true that the elite male tennis stars can play five gruelling sets lasting an entire day and yet rebound within hours to play another equally-hard match without obvious ill effects, that’s due to their extreme fitness. Like golfers, tennis players simply do not cheat.

I suppose we can blame Sharapova’s heart condition for her failure to read the email from WADA last September warning her that Meldonium was now included in their official list of banned drugs. It’s hard to concentrate when you might drop dead of an ischaemic attack at any second, staved off only by the life-saving medication your doctor has risked his licence to prescribe.

But what a pity she didn’t open that email and read what it said. What a shame Maria Sharapova, famous for her attention to detail, simply didn’t notice that the drug she had been using for the previous decade was now banned, and continued to take it. Naturally, that would have nothing to do with the fact that testing of professional tennis players is almost unheard-of.

She just didn’t notice the email and that’s why Maria Sharapova is now out of tennis.

Petty bureaucracy.






Conor Niland Qualifies for Wimbledon

Since our Sports Department were too drunk to write anything about this, I suppose I’ll have to do it instead.

Jesus Christ, is there no rest for a hard-pressed web editor?

Right. Here’s the news.  Limerickman Conor Niuiland has qualified for Wimbledon.

You won’t read about that in your D4 rags.  You won’t hear anyone in Koily’s telling you that some Limerick guy is playing in Wimbledon.  If he’s not from Fitzers, he’s nobody, roight?

Well maybe he isn’t, but he’s in Wimbledon and good luck to him.

Do you know how good you have to be to get into this tournament?

You have to be brilliant.  You have to be the best of the best, even if you finish last in the competition.  You have to be so good that almost nobody else in the world comes near to being as good as you.

That’s how good a tennis player you have to be, and that’s how good Conor Niland is.

And he’s from Limerick.

We’ll be following him with great pride and loyalty, the same as we followed our rugby players when they went out and won the European Rugby Cup, not once but twice.

This might be a small town, but these are not small achievements.

Yet another reason to be proud of Limerick.



Seconds Out adds:

Sorry now, but I wasn’t actually drunk. I just fell down the stairs.

Here’s my thing:

Limerick’s Conor Niland will be aiming to do the double over tennis legend Roger Federer if he can overcome Adrian Mannarino tomorrow. Niland became the first Irishman since Matt Doyle in 1984 to qualify for Wimbledon after beating Croatia’s Nikola Meketic in the qualifiers in London last Saturday.

And if he can KO French southpaw Mannarino on Tuesday then he’ll face Federer – assuming Federer wins – who he once beat in an U/14 tournament.

“It will be a difficult one for him (Federer), ” Niland, tongue in cheek, told the press after becoming the first Irishman to have his name in the hat for the Wimbledon draw in 27-years at the weekend.

However, Mannarino, ranked 53rd in the world, will pose a formidable test for the Shannonsider.

“He’s good. He’s very talented, a lefty. He beat Del Potro at Queen’s so it’s tricky. But it’s winnable. It’s not a bad draw. We’ll see. I’ll have to play very well to win it,” the Irish number one told Johnny Watterson of the Irish Times today.

Birmingham-born Niland – whose family moved back to Limerick when he two-years-old – learned his trade at the Limerick Lawn Tennis club. His sister Gina is a former Irish number one.

Niland turned pro after leaving college in California in 2005 and has risen from being ranked 500 in the world to his present ranking of 184 as of June 11, 2011.

The 29-year-old, a former pupil of St Nessan’s National School in Mungret, is guaranteed a purse of £12,500 for making the first round.

However, he can double his winnings if he emulates Matt Doyle, who reached the second round after beating in 1984.

Fingers crossed that Niland can do a Matt Doyle – and then do the double over the greatest tennis player that ever lived.



THE All England Club (AEC)  today produced a prime example of what happens when society tries to apply political correctness to sport, by announcing that the winners of the men’s and women’s Wimbledon singles finals will pocket cheques for a cool £1m each.

However, the announcement takes no account of the fact that women are vastly inferior tennis players to men, although they do look good in frocks.

It also takes no account of the fact that said inferior players are actually getting paid more, in proportion to the amount of time they can expect to be and spend on court, than men.

Moreover, it takes no account of the fact that the TV audience for Wimbledon would drop through the floor if it was a women-only competition.

Meantime, men can play up to fives sets to advance to the next round of the competition or to win it, whilst women can play up to three sets to advance to the next round of the competition or to win it.

Consequently men, despite the fact that no women would make it into the top 200 male rankings, are paid on average about 40% less than women.

Here are the stats for the Wimbledon 2009 Champions as produced in the Times:-

Roger Federer: Played 273 games over 945 minutes, equalling £3,114 per game or £899 per minute.

Serena Williams: Played 146 games over 584 minutes, equalling £5,822 per game or £1,455 per minute.

I’m assuming that the above stats are for singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Women pushed for years to have equal status as men on court and finally they got it, but this is not equality.  This is discriminating against one group of players –  who are better players – because of their gender.

The only way out of this, of course, would be to insist that women play five sets, but then again, best not. The vast majority of women taking part in the tournament are so woeful it’s best to get them off court as soon as possible – unless they are wearing nice frocks.

Maybe the solution would be to reduce the amount of men’s sets to three.

Then again, maybe the solution would be for the AEC to have the balls to tell women that if they want an equal purse that they should play an equal amount of tennis.

Or maybe the solution would be introduce a a mixed draw for the singles between men and women with a prize of £2m on offer.  Given that unlikely scenario I doubt it any women would be taking home any money at all.

Meanwhile, is there anything to be done about female players roaring like castrated bulls every time they serve or hit a return.

No bawls please.