Eleven-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal has made it known he does not approve of Lance Armstrong using performance-enhancing drugs.
And he has every right to take a shot at the historic cyclist.
Nadal said, via TennisWorldUSA.org:
"It’s a real problem in sport that strongly damages the image of sport, but pay attention not to put everybody in the same bracket.
“Cases like the one of Armstrong or the one of Operation Puerto are the cancer of sport, but you have to fight with all the strength you have, to grant transparency, make the tests public and collaborate.”
Keep in mind, this is a tennis player who may be on the downslope of his career at just 26 years of age. Nadal withdrew from the 2012 London Olympics, missing the rest of the campaign, and has just gotten back on the court this month. Sure, he won the 2013 Brasil Open last Sunday, but it's clear his aggressive playing style throughout his career has taken its toll on his body.
That puts things into perspective. Nadal has played his respective sport the right way from the very beginning. He exudes passion and he's a model player for the ATP Tour. He may not have as many opportunities to claim majors moving forward. All he asks is that everyone plays the game right, no matter what sport they compete in.
It's easy to understand why he would go after Armstrong. While Armstrong had seven Tour de France titles, Nadal has 11 Grand Slam singles titles. Professional cycling and tennis are similar in that only a few events can define your career. You can post a sterling singles record in tennis, but if you don't win those Grand Slam singles titles, you aren't considered an all-time great. Just ask Andy Murray how he felt for so many years before finally breaking through at the U.S. Open last year.
In that sense, the number of Grand Slam singles titles or Tour de France victories you accumulate can distance you from your peers. As Nadal looks forward, he knows his body isn't cooperating. If someone surpasses his career mark of major victories in the future, all he asks is that they do it the right way.
He doesn't want it to come cheap. He wants the next generation of tennis players to earn it.
Nadal is disgusted with Armstrong not only because of the Spaniard's principles, but because he couldn't imagine someone doing what Armstrong did in his respective sport. In fact, he would be furious if someone were ranked higher than him on the all-time list of Grand Slam singles titles and did it the wrong way.
Nadal highlights the reason so many cyclists went after Armstrong for taking PEDs: They are competitors who feel everything they accomplish should be earned, not bought.