Nadal the latest fancy bear victim

A week after the medical files of Serena and Venus Williams were leaked by hacking group Fancy Bears, Rafa Nadal found himself in the same situation.

The group responded to the allegations against Russian athletes by hacking into the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) servers and taking files pertaining to western athletes. The staged release of documents is designed for maximum impact whilst keeping the issue in the media spotlight.

The Williams sisters both vehemently denied any wrongdoing, pointing out that they had both applied and received Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) for drugs taken in Venus Williams case for Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder diagnosed in 2011, as well as asthma medication.

Serena meanwhile was given TUEs on several occasions when she wasn’t playing competitive tennis and like Nadal, the allegations centre around the use of opioid painkillers and corticosteroid anti-inflammatories. Her TUEs were issued in 2010, 2014 and 2015.

Their stance was backed up by WADA, who confirmed that neither broken any rules or regulations in the process.

Nadal spoke in the Spanish media regarding the circumstances surrounding his own TUEs. At the time he received his exemption in August 2012, he was injured and received injections of Tetracosactide, which has been at the centre of doping allegations in cycling.

Having been given a TUE for the treatment, Nadal protested that he wasn’t “taking anything prohibited” when the authorities give permission for the drugs to be taken. On other occasions, he has been given TUEs for knee injuries and the Spaniard was quick to dismiss the revelations as “inflammatory”.

When previously confronted on the issue of doping, Nadal has threatened litigation against those making the allegations, most notably French politician, Roselyne Bachelot. He strenuously denied any wrongdoing, pointing to his career as an example of hard work rather than success gained through nefarious means.

Problematically for the tennis stars, Maria Sharapova’s guilt has cast doubt on the honesty of those at the top of the sport. She will find out the result of her two-year ban in October but few expect a reduction in the suspension, let alone the decision being over-turned.

With such a high-profile casualty in the war on drugs, many are cynical about the protestations of innocence from others. Rightly so; no sport is immune to drugs cheats and tennis is no exception. What tennis hopes to avoid is being cast in the same light as cycling.

Nadal had a solution – complete transparency over the drug testing process. Tests taken would be made public and then the results published a fortnight later, according to the Spaniard. Whether it would be as decisive as he claimed – “This would end the problem,” he said when speaking to the press – is arguable. Every time the rules are changed, the cheats become slicker, more cunning.

Coverage of the two incidents has been largely positive for the three players, an indication that their version of events has been largely accepted. Contrast that with Sharapova where the opprobrium of the masses was quick to surface.

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