In the middle of June, professional golfer Phil Mickelson made headlines for breaking golf etiquette by hitting the ball towards the hole whilst it was moving. The American was handed a two shot penalty, but many people were calling for him to be disqualified from the tournament. His violation of the rules also brought up a huge debate about whether he should have been allowed to continue to participate in the PGA Championship.
In the end it didn’t matter as Mickelson failed to make the cut.
Fortunately for tennis fans, there is virtually no controversy heading into this year’s US Open, which starts at the end August. The ’Big Three’ (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal) head into the men’s singles tournament as the favourites, according to US Open tennis odds. Unlike US Open tournaments in the last few years, all of the major competitors are expected to attend this year, with none of currently ruled out due to injury.
Although tennis doesn’t have the worldwide audience compared to some major sports, there have still been occasions where tennis stars have found themselves in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Here are some sporting stars who have broken the rules and suffered the consequences.
Arguably the biggest name on this list, Maria Sharapova was at the top of her game when she received a two year ban for failing a drugs test. Sharapova’s ban began on the 12th March 2016, after she revealed that, at the 2016 Australian Open, she had failed a drugs test.
Since 2006, Sharapova had been taking Meldonium, a drug that is usually prescribed for heart conditions. Although the drug is primarily used to treat heart conditions, Meldonium was very popular amongst athletes as it is believed to optimise the use of oxygen to allow them to train under maximum strain. This led to the drug being added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s banned substances list on the 1st January, 2016.
Despite WADA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency notifying players about the addition of the drug to the list, Sharapova continued to take the drug and claimed that she was not aware of the change and wasn’t aware of the alternate name of the drug (Mildronate) that was used on the document. Because of her failure to stop taking the drug Sharapova was given a two year ban from the sport, but this was later reduced to 15 months.
After a lengthy spell away from the sport, Sharapova started off her ‘return’ in the best possible way by recording a victory in her first Grand Slam match. Despite getting off to the best possible start Sharapova has often struggled in particular games, such as Grand Slam matches. The Russian has lost half of her Grand Slam matches since returning and has only managed the reach the quarter finals once. Although it is likely that she is going through a bad run of form, it is also looks like the lack of competitive tennis for 15 months has affected her overall game.
Another professional tennis player who received a ban from the sport for failing a drugs test is Dan Evans. The British tennis player was banned from the sport for one year after testing positive for cocaine, which he claimed had accidentally mixed with his medication in a washbag.
Although Evans wasn’t at the top of the game like Sharapova was, this ban still had a serious effect on his career. Earlier in 2017, Evans had managed to reach a career-high ranking of 41 but eventually slipped to 108th before he was banned. As expected the British player rapidly dropped down the rankings, dropping out of the top 1000 for the first time since 2008!
Since returning to professional tennis, Evans has jumped straight back into action by competing in a few British ATP tournaments and he also participated in Wimbledon qualifying where he was knocked out in the second qualifying round. Despite failing to reach Wimbledon, Evans has slowly climbed up the rankings ladder and is currently number 310 in the ATP Rankings.
Whilst Maria Sharapova and Dan Evans received fairly short bans, our next tennis player received the harshest punishment a professional sportsman can receive. Egyptian tennis player Karim Hossam was banned from for life and fined around £11,000 earlier this year after being convicted of multiple match-fixing offences. The 24 year old was found guilty of 16 corruption charges between 2013 and 2017. These charges included: match fixing, betting, providing ‘inside information’ and failing to report corrupt approaches.
Hossam was never the greatest player in his short-lived professional career, sitting in 1,136th place prior to his ban and only managing a career-high of 337. It would have been very unlikely that the Egyptian would have made it to the highest level to seriously compete for a Grand Slam trophy, but due to his ban we’ll never know.
We already know that Karim Hossam was banned from tennis earlier this year, but he isn’t the only player who has received a life-ban from the sport. Back in 2011, Austrian tennis player Daniel Köllerer became the first player to receive a life ban for attempting to fix matches.
The Austrian was found guilty of three offences under the Uniform Tennis Anti-Corruption Program. The violations were:
- Contriving or attempting to contrive the outcome of an event
- Soliciting or facilitating a player not to use his or her best efforts in an event
- Soliciting, offering or providing money, benefit or consideration to any other covered person with the intention of negatively influencing a player’s best efforts in any event.
You’re able to read more information about the ban here.
Ever since Köllerer received his ban, he has maintained the belief that he did not partake in any match fixing and still protests his innocence. Understandably, the Austrian is no longer involved in the sport but has criticised the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over the years for their failure to properly deal with match-fixing at the top level of world tennis.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai had been banned from the sport for six months by the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP). The program has mainly banned players who have been found guilty of match fixing or failed a drugs test, but Peng’s case was one that isn’t seen very often.
In the lead up to Wimbledon 2017, it was reported that the Chinese player attempted to ‘dump’ her Belgian partner (Alison Van Uytvanck) for another player after the sign-in deadline. It is believed that Peng ’used coercion and offered the possibility of financial reward’ to persuade Van Uytvanck to withdraw from a ladies doubles events they were meant to participate in. As the offer was refused, Peng ended up completely withdrawing from the doubles tournament.
The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) gave Peng a six month ban and a fine of £7,760. However, three months of her ban and £3,880 of her fine have been suspended meaning that she is able to play again from the 8th November 2018 providing that no further breaches are committed. Despite breaking the rules before Wimbledon 2017, Peng’s suspension started earlier this month on the 8th August, meaning that she Peng won’t be competing at this year’s US Open.
The bans mentioned here are just a few examples of those which are handed out by the sport’s governing body. There have been multiple players who have been fined and sanctioned by the Tennis Integrity Unit since its formation in 2008, and it is inevitable that there will be players in the future who will also be investigated and fined by them.
Obviously the examples mentioned here are some of the biggest and most high-profile bans that were handed out, but it does show every professional tennis player that you will suffer the consequences if you break the rules, regardless of your ranking.
Can you think of any other tennis players who broke the rules and paid the price? Let us know!