Washington Post SportsTennis Piece

This post has been written in response to an article in the Washington Post on April 19, 2016, regarding comments made by Novak Djokovic in response to Andy Murray’s recently revealed suspicions regarding the existence of doping in tennis. The link to the article is here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/04/19/novak-djokovic-isnt-accused-of-doping-but-he-sounds-eerily-like-lance-armstrong

Ah, but where to begin?

The headline (as can be seen in the URL) and picture alone (Djokovic’s juxtaposed beside Armstrong’s) do more than enough to taint people’s perceptions. In this attention-addled society, people will make quick – and baseless – associations and judgments without even reading the article. If people can’t see through this – just as a start – then they are as selectively blind as the author, complicit in the attempted deception. Either that  or they are ignorant to cognitively impaired levels.

Speaking in terms of the breadth of reporting, the body of this piece speaks only to what ONE PLAYER said, and in rather superficial terms. Why did the writer not ask Djokovic for follow up comments, prior to typing characters on the screen?

Why did the writer not look deeper into Andy Murray’s views on doping? A simple google search would have led one to find that 3 years ago, Murray was DEFENDING tennis over doping allegations made by a former player. See link here:

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/jan/17/andy-murray-defends-doping-allegations

This alone begs questions like, why are you changing your tune now Andy? What happened between now and then? If you think doping is so prevalent, then why do you think that it has not been caught? Do you think that the cheating is so good that it hasn’t been detected by current methods? Do you think too-infrequent (and is it?) testing allows cheaters to slip through the cracks? Do you think this is intentional?

(And if you really want to create a firestorm) Or do you think cheats have in fact been caught, but the various organizations have kept it all under wraps for many years?

Why did this line of questioning (okay, the more reasonable stuff) fail to enter the mind of the writer?

Furthermore, why was Djokovic the only one sought for a response to Murray’s comments?  Why not ask Federer, Nadal, Wawrinka, and anybody else in say, the top 15 to 20 of the ATP? The writer of this article could have done this. The opinions of the rest of the “Big 4” would carry a good deal of weight, no? That would give the writer, and tennis fans, a good cross section of responses; from those who have reached the summit at some point, and others who are trying desperately to do so. This would provide a good picture as to the general views on doping in the sport. Why was this not done?

Djokovic basically said, that unless there is evidence to the contrary, then tennis should be given the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, what FACTUAL BASIS is there to justify CLAIMS of doping? This stance is rational, and reasonable. He is speaking from his OWN EXPERIENCE, IN TENNIS. And like the standard disclaimer in the closing movie credits goes, any similarities to persons dead or living – and I suppose Armstrong could qualify as either depending on whether you wish to define death figuratively or literally – are purely coincidental. To make that association implies that not only does the writer presume that Djokovic is doping, but that in addition, either he has gone undetected, or the various sports entities have conspired to cover it up. And if THAT is what is suspected, then why not ask anyone else their opinion, and corner them all? That would be the scoop of the century, wouldn’t it? So the piece isn’t about catching all cheats, it’s about implicating just a certain one, for the writer’s own reasons.

Is it reasonable to say that there are chemical cheaters in all sports, as Murray intimated? That’s a rather broad brush stroke to paint, but not entirely inconceivable, and may very well be likely. What if there are, and it applies to one in 100 athletes in a given sport? One in 200? One in 50? One in 20? Of those caught, are they a top 10-ranked player, middling, or are they just trying to break into the top 100? What if it turns out that there are, but Murray has never actually played them?  Isn’t testing, and the details of any who have been caught to date, supposed to reveal those insights? What else could?

And speaking of testing, why not get a comment from those currently presiding in the ATP, WADA or the ITF in response to Murray’s allegations, as his comments started this all? Why was this not done? They are the ones tasked with maintaining the integrity of the sport, doing the actual testing. It seems only logical to seek a comment from these entities. Ask them if they have plans to step up their testing efforts, etc. at least, as a starting point.

The writer said that Djokovic “blamed the media for the stories of doping in tennis” when Djokovic said “the media is trying to create the stories and so forth.” How do you know that he is not specifically referring to the media  reaction to only Andy Murray’s recent comments? In the absence of proof Djokovic infers that the media has blown up Murray’s claims and that the sports media in general likes to make mountains out of molehills, because hey, it’s good for click stats. Funny how, if these claims are such a big deal (and in terms of what they imply if true, they are – especially given the likening of Djokovic to the biggest sports cheater ever in Armstrong – that the writer quoted the feedback of only one person in ALL OF TENNIS on the subject; the person who just happens to be the subject of this article. But I suppose if Federer and/or Nadal and/or ANYBODY had also said that they think that the sport is clean, then that legitimizes Djokovic’s stance, which gives the writer nothing about which to speak in the first place, at least not in this malignant smear.

And rather than assume that they can read Djokovic’s mind (because it’s convenient to their position) when stating “So what are the “stories” of Tennis Doping Past that Djokovic may believe are media creations? Well, here are a few…” You might consider actually ASKING Djokovic what he meant when he said that, rather than put words in his mouth to suit your own purposes.

And that was it, in terms of the beef to back this up. Where is Clara Peller when you need her, to ask that famous Wendy’s question, that alludes to “where is the substance?”

Easy – there is none.

So: we have Djokovic’s comment – without any follow-up, in response to Murray’s comment, the latter of which was not put under any journalistic scrutiny. We have the subliminal insinuation of Djokovic cheating through a click-baiting headline and a photo next to Armstrong underneath it. We have the opinions of no other players on the tour for contrast, context or consensus. We have no comments from the organizations who oversee the regulation and testing of the sport.

While admittedly Djokovic could certainly use some polish and PR skills when it comes to answering such questions, to avoid potentially putting his foot into his mouth, this article’s focus on one person regarding an issue in a sport that involves so many people and organizations is the real fumble here. That what he said is similar – to a limited degree – to what Armstrong said on the subject is irrelevant.

At its best, these are a series of not insignificant oversights. At its worst…

If this writer has ever had the aspiration to actually be a proper journalist, rather than the current, slanted, TMZ-like sound bite provider that she is demonstrating herself to be in this piece, I strongly suggest that she reaches out to a colleague of hers on the REAL news side of things at the Post, the well-regarded Jerry Markon, whose work I have had the pleasure to read on many an occasion, to understand what ACTUAL news writing is.

I do not wish ANYONE, in sports, or in any other walk of life, to be maligned like this in the media, based on nothing but innuendo  and manipulation.

This person has embarrassed themselves, as well as the Washington Post.

After having read several  of Mr. Markon’s articles, I specifically noted to him as to how unfailingly impartial, and completely free of any judgment his work is. His response: “that’s the highest compliment you can give to a reporter.”

 

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