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Marin Cilic cited an injury and pulled out when he came under the doping cloud. Paulo Vecina / The National
Marin Cilic cited an injury and pulled out when he came under the doping cloud. Paulo Vecina / The National

Silent bans can give the wrong impression

The ITF’s doping policy is creating unwarranted suspicions and it is time for them to change their stance.

Silent bans can give the wrong impression

Over the past year, some of tennis’ top players, including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, have been calling for more stringent drug tests. And the Marin Cilic episode tells you why.

The Croatian tested positive in May, at the BMW Open in Munich, for a stimulant called nikethamide. He was reportedly informed about the failed test at Wimbledon, before his second-round match, and promptly pulled out, citing a knee injury. Cilic, 24, has not played since.

While there is no reason to doubt Cilic’s claims that he took the banned substance “inadvertently”, many fans will be questioning the delay in announcing the results of the failed test. The hearings can follow in time, but an announcement could have been made and the player handed a “provisional ban”.

Instead, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) waited until they heard Cilic’s case and, all this time, fans were told he was injured. In reality, the ITF said he had accepted a “voluntary provisional suspension”. Whispers of such “silent bans” have been doing the rounds for years, with doping allegations against some top players. The Cilic case will only serve to bolster such suspicions.

To avoid every injury being looked at suspiciously, the ITF will have to change their stance. Their drug policy has been in question, especially since Andre Agassi’s revelation of how he escaped a ban despite testing positive for crystal methamphetamine. It is time for tennis to come clean now or risk a cycling-type fiasco someday.


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