RAFAEL Nadal made a strong statement against doping in tennis — and then had much stronger words when challenged about his own position on prohibited substance use.
Speaking in his pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Indian Wells Open, Nadal spoke openly when asked about former women’s No. 1 Maria Sharapova’s shock positive drugs test at the Australian Open in January.
The 14-time grand slam champion said Sharapova’s positive test is a black eye on the sport.
However, the Spaniard quickly turned hot under the collar when the line of questioning switched from Sharapova to his own past experiences.
The 29-year-old has faced regular accusations of doping from personalities on the professional tennis circuit and Sharapova’s doping revelation again prompted questions from reporters into the rumours linking Nadal with doping.
Nadal’s accusers used Sharapova’s positive test to turn the blowtorch back on him.
Perhaps most sensation of all, however, was former Spanish minister for health and sport Roselyne Bachelot sensationally declaring Nadal’s extended break from the game was the result of a covered-up positive drugs test.
“We know about that famous injury of Rafael Nadal, who has led seven months of competition stop, is certainly due to a positive control,” Bachelot said in Spanish on television show Le Grand 8 overnight.
Bachelot said lengthy player injuries were “not every time, of course, but very often” drug cover ups.
She also took aim at the lack of transparency between the doping practices of players and the public.
“It does not reveal the positive controls, it does not reveal the sanctions that are given in tennis,” she said of Sharapova’s drug cheating.
“Simply, we curiously learn a player or a tennis player has an injury that has been off the court for months.”
When asked about the accusations by a reporter at Indian Wells, Nadal tackled the question head on, denying the accusations, reportedly saying: “No f***ing way, forget about it.”
“I am very far from that, doping. I am a completely clean guy. I worked so hard during my career that when I get injured I never take nothing (banned) to be back quicker.”
He said he has had enough of the rumours accusing him of being a drug cheat.
“I heard it a few times again about doping from my person and I am a little bit tired with that,” Nadal said.
“I believe in the sport and the values of the sport. The sport is an example for society. It is an example for the kids and if I am doing something that goes against that, I will be lying to myself, not lying to my opponents.”
Nadal said over the course of his career he has taken advantage of some new treatments for his knee problems, like stem-cell therapy and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, often known as blood spinning.
“I have been open all my career. I never tried to hide nothing that I did,” Nadal said.
“The first time with PRP it worked fantastic and the second time it was bad. I had to stop playing tennis for seven months.
“And with stem cells I used it two times on my knees and it worked very well.
“So, it is difficult to imagine that something like this can happen. It is obvious that mistakes happen. Everybody can have mistakes. I want to believe that it is a mistake from Maria. She didn’t want to do it. It is obvious that it is negligence. The rules are like this. That is fair. Now she must pay for it.”
Nadal said he is doing everything he can to stop his slide down the ATP rankings, despite a poor start to the season.
“I lost three matches at the beginning of the season that I could have won and probably should have won.
“I have to keep working hard. I feel ready to keep going mentally and physically too. I’m excited to be here at Indian Wells, a tournament that I really love so much and I’m enjoying these days before the competition starts.
“I’m much better than last year in terms of personal feelings. Last year I was so nervous when I was competing and this year is a different story. I lost, yes, a few matches that I think I could win. But I was prepared, and I don’t have those very negative feelings in terms of being without control of my breathing, or being too nervous.”
Nadal will play the winner of the first-round clash between Victor Estrella Burgos and Gilles Muller In his Indian Wells opener.