Martina Hingis: fight or forfeit?

Friday marked another chapter in the ongoing Martina Hingis saga, and it’s one her fans aren’t going to like.

The tennis world was shocked when, back on Nov. 1, 2007, Hingis unveiled a double-whammy — she had tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon last summer, and was retiring from competitive play. At that time, Hingis stressed her innocence, denied using drugs, and announced that she would fight the charges.

"I find this accusation so horrendous, so monstrous, that I’ve decided to confront it head-on by talking to the press," she said back then. "I am frustrated and angry. I believe that I am absolutely 100 percent innocent."

Hingis expressed doubts at the accuracy of the urine test on which the positive result was based, but the International Tennis Federation said an anti-doping tribunal found that she had committed an offense. The tribunal rejected suggestions there were any doubts over the veracity of the sample.

The ITF also disqualified Hingis’ results from Wimbledon, and any subsequent tournaments in which she played. She stands to forfeit any ranking points gained, and $129,481 in prize money.

Even though Hingis is now retired, the suspension is backdated to Oct. 1. She has three weeks to respond; she must either accept the ruling or contest it and her punishment.

As of Friday afternoon, there had been no statement from Hingis, who is a five-time Grand Slam winner. Hingis was a dominant force in women’s tennis in the late ’90s, winning three straight Australian Opens, Wimbledon, and the
U.S. Open. She was also twice a runner-up at the French Open.

The only comment thus far has come from Larry Scott, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, who said on Friday, "As a signatory to the WADA Code and a founding member of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, the WTA Tour is committed to ensuring the integrity and competitive fairness of women’s professional tennis, and ensuring the health and well-being of our athletes. We are saddened by this news, as Martina has meant so much to fans the world over and made many positive contributions to the sport."

The whole mess will likely get messier if Hingis decides to fight the charges. A report of cocaine use is surprising against an athlete of her caliber. Those who have any experience with such a drug know that it is not conducive to athletic excellence; quite the opposite, in fact. The odds are greatly against anyone who makes a habit of using such powerful recreational drugs being a champion on the court. At the same time, drug testing these days is overall very reliable, making Hingis look like an offender.