Rafael Nadal has an idea that will help gain a lot of positive publicity with the sport of tennis: Let the public know about all drug testing that goes on.
The tennis star missed seven months of competition after an early exit at Wimbledon last summer due to injury and illness, but he finally returned to action at the VTR Open in Chile.
He is due to compete in the finals in both the singles and doubles tournaments.
However, the most notable thing he discussed after his recent match is the amount of drug testing that occurred while he was working his way back to form.
According to The Guardian, Nadal said he went through a lot of tests during his time off, and he thinks that information should be released:
If I go through a lot or very few doping controls people should know...This information should be open the public.
The important thing is that those who cheat pay for their cheating. With [Lance] Armstrong the image of sport has been damaged, especially in the case of cycling. The important thing is for sport to clean up its image; that the controls are made public. They should do the tests they need to do, but they should be done respecting the athlete. From my point of view, this has not always happened.
This is a relatively novel idea in the world of sports.
Failed drug tests are usually publicized as someone deals with the consequences of cheating. However, a test that is passed is never discussed.
In a time where every athletic achievement is surrounded by suspicion, this change in mindset could work.
If athletes have to watch teammates and the competition be vilified with negative results, they also deserve some publicity for positive results. This way, fans can be excited about great performances rather than questioning them.
Nadal may not like being tested so much, but at least he is willing to do so and share his results as a way to keep sports clean and maintain his status in tennis. As we have learned, athletes are capable of using performance-enhancing drugs to expedite recovery, and Nadal does not want people to think this about him.
For example, in a recent Sports Illustrated article by David Epstein and George Dohrmann, the authors quoted a lab worker who said he gave deer-antler spray to Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis. The spray contained a banned substance and led to many questions about the longtime linebacker prior to the Super Bowl.
While there is still debate over whether Lewis actually used the substance, the story opened up our eyes to yet another way an athlete is capable of cheating, and it raised at least some suspicion.
Baseball fans, too, recently saw no players elected to the 2013 Hall of Fame class due to the overwhelming suspicion of steroid use (via Tyler Kepner of the New York Times). These players were active before testing was required, which opened up many questions about how clean they really were.
The list of players included men with evidence against them like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, but also people like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza who were simply perceived as guilty by association.
If there was any sort of testing at this point, the second group of those players would love to separate themselves with news and records of passed drug tests. It would certainly be nice for people to know that their accomplishments were legitimate.
We have reached a sad stage in sports. When Adrian Peterson does the near impossible and rushes for over 2,000 yards after tearing an ACL, fans have to question whether he is clean, as Bill Simmons notes in a recent Grantland article.
Wouldn't it be nice if he could pass a drug test and everyone could feel better about it?
Of course, not everyone agrees with this mindset. NASCAR, for example, has long had a policy of keeping specific results private—even on positive tests.
When driver A.J. Allmendinger failed a drug test last summer, president Mike Helton stated that he will not disclose which drugs were involved. He believed it is a privacy issue (via ESPN):
A lot of it has to do with complexities of the whole process itself and realizing that you're dealing with personnel and personalities. We've chosen so far, anyway, to not disclose that. If the member wants to, that's their privilege to.
It will be tough to imagine athletes voluntarily disclosing this type of information. Then again, the ones not breaking any rules should be quick to tell the world about it.
Rafael Nadal wants people to know that he is clean. He has been winning Grand Slam tournaments since he was 19 years old and has little suspicion around him. However, he knows it's something that must be noted.
The rest of the clean athletes in various sports deserve the same respect from the public. Leagues should release all drug tests to end debates and let people know who is clean once and for all.