EXCLUSIVE: WADA Official Hits Back At Head’s Sharapova Comments and Defends The Banning Of Meldonium - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: WADA Official Hits Back At Head’s Sharapova Comments and Defends The Banning Of Meldonium

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The Media Relations manager of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Ben Nichols, has branded Head’s remarks on Maria Sharapova’s ongoing doping case as ‘inappropriate’ in an email sent to ubitennis.net.

The prestigious sporting equipment and clothing company has been vocal in their support for Sharapova, who currently has a sponsorship with them. During the Australian Open, Sharapova failed a drug test after testing positive for Meldonium, a substance which was added to WADA’s list of banned substances on January 1st 2016.

On March 11th Head posted a statement of support for Sharapova and questioned the justification for suspending the former world No.1. A week later on March 19th, the CEO of Head, Johan Eliasch, called for the WADA to publish the scientific evidence they used to ban the drug.

“It appears WADA has banned the substance based upon the number of athletes using it rather than its actual efficacy in improving performance. The meldonium investor and drug manufacturer claim the drug should be taken by athletes who wish to protect their health.” Eliasch said during a lengthy statement.

HEAD’S support of Sharapova has been welcomed by her army of fans, however, questions has been raised about their vocal support before her doping hearing has taken place. Ubitennis contacted Nichols in regards to this matter and he has stated that it is ‘inappropriate’ for any public party to comment on an ongoing doping case.

“It is inappropriate for WADA, and indeed others, to comment on the specifics of cases until the International Federation or National Anti-Doping Agency in charge with the result management of the cases has issued their decision.” Mr Nichols told Ubitennis.

Grindeks, the Latvian company that makes Meldonium, said yesterday that the drug could potentially ‘take months’ to leave a person’s body depending on other factors. This leaves the possibility that an athlete could have taken the substance in late 2015 (when it was legal) and still fail a drugs test in 2016. Nevertheless, Nichols stated that athletes have been given sufficient notice about banning the substance and if this scenario occurs, they will need to provide evidence.

The date an athlete sample is collected is the date any subsequent anti-doping rule violation is asserted to have taken place. At any hearing that follows, the onus is then on the athlete to explain how the substance was in his or her body.” He said.

Regarding the legitimacy behind the banning of the substance, Nichols has hit back at critics. He said WADA conducted a very detailed investigation in the substance and gave ‘all stakeholders involved’ a chance to speak about the substance prior to their decision to ban the drug.

“Meldonium was placed on WADA’s monitoring program for 2015, at which time it was being monitored for patterns of misuse”. The WADA head of media told ubitennis.
“During what was a very thorough consultation process in 2015, all stakeholders had the opportunity to submit their comments regarding meldonium”.

Nichols also stressed to Ubitennis that all WADA signatories was notified in September 2015 that the substance would be added to the 2016 list.

There can be no question as to the procedure that was followed, which established Meldonium as a banned substance as of 1st January 2016.” He later added.

Since the banning of Meldonium, there has been over 100 failed positive tests. Apart from Sharapova, other athletes include 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Yuliya Efimova (swimming) and 2013 European indoor 800 meter champion Nataliia Lupu (athletics).

WADA is currently appealing for more money to be invested in the organization. Their president, Craig Reedie, has called for extra funding for his organization to help tackle doping in sport. He has called for sponsors as well as broadcasters to help fund the WADA. Their current budget is approximately $26 million per year. To put this figure into perspective, BT Sport and Sky sports paid £5.1bn for live Premier League TV rights for three seasons from 2016-17.  This equates to $14.5 million per match.

One proposed idea in the fight against anti-doping is to fine the sponsor every time a athlete fails a drugs test. The idea is that if the sponsor was involved, it could act as a greater deterrent for athletes. Putting this idea to Nichols, he remained neutral on the idea, however, he said that ‘time has come’ to look for ways to increase WADA’s funding.

Regarding funding, the WADA President was very clear in his recent speech that he believes the time has come to look at other ways of increasing funding for anti-doping, including asking major sport sponsors to help fund clean sport”. Mr Nichols concluded.

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Stan Wawrinka Explains ATP Cup Absence And Olympics Situation Ahead Of Basel

Stan Wawrinka has explained why his Olympic dream is in doubt as he prepares to start his campaign in Basel.

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Stan Wawrinka (@usopen - Twitter)

Stan Wawrinka has explained why he is absent from the ATP Cup line-up as he begins his campaign in Basel on Wednesday. 

 

The three-time grand slam champion enters his home tournament in Basel having lost a three set final to a resurgent Andy Murray in Antwerp.

Despite the loss Wawrinka has been on a momentum swing himself having reached the US Open and Roland Garros quarter-finals this season.

Although this year has been a success, the Swiss’ 2020 calendar remains a mystery having been absent from Switzerland’s team for the ATP Cup next year.

Speaking to puntodebreak.com, Wawrinka explained his decision to not participate in the cup competition in January as well as questions over his Olympic eligibility, “I have a contract with the Doha tournament, which takes place at the same time as the ATP Cup,” Wawrinka explained.

“I would like to play it (Olympics). The desire is there, but now I have to adjust my calendar for 2020 with my team. I don’t know what criteria are required to get a Wild Card.” 

The 34 year-old is not the only one requiring a wildcard to enter the Olympics with Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori amongst others relying on the same rule.

Meanwhile Wawrinka is preparing for his first match in Basel, where he doesn’t have the best record having never reached the final.

A first round match against Pablo Cuevas awaits on Wednesday and he admitted his tension when performing in front of a home crowd,“In Basel I have always been a little tense, too hesitant,” he admitted.

“Correcting that and winning my first round match against Pablo Cuevas on Wednesday depends on me. It is not the tournament that suits my style of play and that is why, although I have played some good matches here, I do not have such a good performance.”

If Wawrinka wants to reach his maiden Swiss Indoors final, he will potentially have to go through Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

That dream last eight match is a long way away though as Wawrinka will have to go through Pablo Cuevas and the winner of Frances Tiafoe against Dan Evans.

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‘I Want Back In’ – Nick Kyrgios Returns To Davis Cup With Key Backing From Captain Hewitt

Former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt explains why the fiery player is back in the team after a 18-month absence.

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Nick Kyrgios (image via www.twitter.com/usopen)

Nick Kyrgios’ past disagreements with Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt has seemingly been resolved after the Australian was included in this year’s nomination for the finals in November.

 

The former top 20 player haven’t featured in the team tournament since February 2018. His absence has been partly due to a spat with his team captain, as well as injury. Earlier this year Kyrgios took a swipe at Hewitt’s support for compatriot Alex de Minaur in a social media post that he later deleted. He was then not included in Australia’s clash with Bosnia and Herzegovina after failing to meet ‘cultural standards.’

Whilst the partnership hasn’t always been perfect, the two have found a mutual agreement. It started earlier this year when Kyrgios sent a message to Hewitt saying that he wanted to return back to the Davis Cup. That paved the way for discussions to take place in Indian Wells as they resolved their differences.

“I got a message (from him) saying ‘mate, I want to get back in the team’,” Hewitt told reporters on Tuesday. “The great thing is, he has a great relationship with all the players as well. It’s kind of about him wanting to be a part of the team and do the right things day in day out.’
“For me, I’d much rather have him on my team.”

Kyrgios is currently serving a six-month probation concerning his behaviour on the ATP Tour. During that period, if he commits any more major offences he faces the prospect of being banned for 16 weeks and a $25,000 fine. The penalty was issued following a string of offences he conducted in the Cincinnati Open in August, which resulted in him being hit with a $113,000 bill.

The 24-year-old is renowned for his fiery temperament on the tour, as well as his string of wins over high-profile players such as Novak Djokovic. Hewitt has insisted that Kyrgios’ recent antics shouldn’t exclude him from the Davis Cup.

“Nick’s a different character and I understand that and we’re not always going to put everybody in the same box.” He explains.
“You’ve got to deal with different personalities in all kind of sports, and I feel like I know Nick as well as anyone.
“I feel like on the Davis Cup court he’s done everything I’ve need in the past whenever he’s been a part of the team. He hasn’t put a foot wrong, he’s out there picking up balls, half coaching and encouraging other players.
“There’s a lot of things he does in a team environment that I actually think we’ll see the best of him.”

Kyrgios has represented his country in nine Davis Cup ties since 2013. Winning nine out of 15 matches played. In 2017 he played in Australia’s semi-final clash with Belgium, which they lost 3-2.

Few can dispute the talent of the current world No.30, however, he has recently missed a series of tournaments due to a shoulder injury. Nevertheless, Hewitt believes his player will be back to full fitness in time for the team competition.

“That has even been the sacrifice over the last couple of weeks, pulling out of the tournaments as well,” Hewitt said.
“After the Laver Cup he did have a shoulder-collar bone slight injury, which he’s pretty much over now, but he had to take a few weeks out, and he felt like if he kept playing that as going to jeopardise his chances of playing Davis Cup.
“He called me at the time about that and we thought that was the best situation. He comes in a little bit underdone, but fortunately he’s a guy that can go out there and light it up when he needs to.
“With this format there’s a lot of unknowns as well, but he’s the kind of guy this format will really suit.”

The Davis Cup finals will take place in Madrid between November 10-17. Australia has been drawn in Group D with Belgium and Colombia. Besides Kyrgios, de Minaur, Jordan Thompson, John Millman and doubles specialist John Peers have also been selected.

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Roger Federer Hails Andy Murray’s Comeback Triumph

The Swiss maestro shares his thoughts about the return of one of his rivals.

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20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer has said it is ‘great’ to see former world No.1 Andy Murray returning back to winning ways after the Brit ended his two-year title drought on Sunday.

 

Murray battled back from a set down to defeat Stan Wawrinka in the final of the European Open in Antwerp. The tournament was only the seventh singles draw he has played since undergoing a second hip operation. He has been troubled by the injury since 2017 and even admitted earlier this year that he was contemplating retiring from the sport due to persistent pain. Murray now plays with a metal rod in his hip joint

“Andy’s achievement was great,” Federer told reporters in Basel on Monday.
“I was a little bit torn, since he beat Stan (Wawrinka) in the final, but it was a great way for him to come back.”

Federer has paid tribute to Murray’s perseverance throughout his return to competitive tennis. The Brit started his comeback in June by playing only in doubles tournaments before making the switch to singles in August at the Winston Salem Open. He has now won nine out of his past 12 matches.

“He’s been playing to try and get close to his old level,” the world No.3 commented.
“It’s nice to see Andy healthy again. I remember in the locker room of the Australian Open.’
“It was very confusing for him and for all of us. I’m extremely happy for him.”

The two have clashed 25 times on the ATP Tour since 2005. It is Federer who leads their head-to-head 14-11 and has won their five most recent meetings. However, it is their encounter in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games that he particularly remembers.

“Last time I didn’t feel I had the crowd fully behind me was probably back in 2012 in London at the Olympics against Murray.“ He said.

In that encounter it was Murray who prevailed after losing to his Swiss rival just weeks beforehand in the Wimbledon final. Murray is the only man in history to win two consecutive Olympic men’s singles titles.

Federer is currently competing in the Swiss Indoors, where he is bidding to win a record 10th title. He kicked-off his campaign on Saturday with an emphatic straight-sets win over Peter Gojowczyk. The match was Federer’s 1500th on the tour.

In the second round, Federer will play either Dusan Lajovic and Radu Albot.

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