ADELAIDE, Australia – The withdrawals of No. 1 doubles seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah from the Adelaide International was … unexpected.
The day before, they looked in fine form playing a fundraiser exhibition with Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber on the revamped centre court
The fact that Nicolas Jarry of Chile, the highest seed among those who lost in the final round of qualifying here, did not sign up as a lucky loser when three ended up being called to action, also was curious.
But these things can happen as a precaution the week before a Grand Slam tournament. And with all the drama over in Melbourne with the qualifying weather conditions, they were two tidbits that just sort of slid by.
But now, with the announcements that both Farah (himself) and Jarry (via the ITF) have been suspended for positive doping tests – on the same day, no less – it all makes sense.
Among all the obscure players who get dinged for positive tests, these two are pretty high profile.
The Montreal-born Farah and his partner are the No. 1 doubles team in the world. At 32, after years of being very-good-but-not-great doubles team, they put it all together and won both Wimbledon and the US Open.
In the off-season they were celebrated in their homeland of Colombia, especially after finishing year-end No. 1. They headlined a big exhibition match against the Bryan brothers.
Now, Farah is out indefinitely. And Cabal will have to find another partner.
As for Jarry, he played the ATP Cup and traveled to Adelaide for the qualifying with all of this hanging over his head. He lost 6-3, 6-2 to American Tommy Paul in the second round on Sunday.
The 24-year-old, currently ranked No. 78, was as high as No. 38 last July.
Farah announces pre-emptively
In Jarry’s case, the International Tennis Federation sent out a press release.
In Farah’s case, he pre-empted that process by announcing it on social media. It was similar to the way Maria Sharapova held a press conference in Los Angeles to announce her positive meldonium test before the ITF went through its regular protocol.
And it appears Farah will fight the suspension proactively.
In a statement Wednesday on Twitter, Farah says that he had been informed by the ITF a few hours prior about the positive test for boldenone.
An anabolic steroid, its derivative is marketed as a veterinary drug and freely sold in Colombia. It’s often used in the production of beef. A number of athletes have tested positive for it – among them Dominican baseball players Abraham Almonte, Jenrry Mejia and David Paulino. It has been around for decades and is easily detectable – according to this story, for a long period of time, too.
Closer to home for Farah, Colombian world champion cyclist Fabián Puerta tested positive for it in Aug. 2018. His public statement sounded quite a bit like Farah’s. But he has yet to clear his name, at least after looking at published reports on the matter.
Tainted meat defence has legs
The Colombian Olympic committee issued a statement in Nov. 2018 indicating that this steroid was found in 25 per cent of sampled meat products in the country.
Colombian footballers Yobani Jose Ricardo Garcia and Daniel Londono Castaneda went all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
They made the tainted meat argument. And they also criticized the sample collection and handling methods.
The footballers submitted a copy of a restaurant menu, a letter from a cattle farmers’ association, and referred to a previous case involving an archer. The CAS didn’t buy it, and they got four years.
That is Farah’s defence as well. And you’d think he’d have a better budget to make a more comprehensive argument. Farah points to a negative test just 10 days prior to the alleged positive one, which occurred Oct. 17 at home in Cali.
The negative test came at the Shanghai tournament, along with some 15 other negative tests in 2019, he maintained.
Farah had returned home before making the long trip back to Europe for the Paris Masters, ATP Tour Finals (where he and Cabal reached the semifinals) and the Davis Cup finals.
Jarry suspended pending hearing
Jarry’s reported positive test for metabolites of Ligandrol and Stanozolol came at the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid in November.
He was charged with the anti-doping rule violation on January 4, the day he played his first match for Chile in Brisbane at the ATP Cup.
Jarry lost in three sets to Benoit Paire. He also played against South Africa Jan. 6 and against Serbia on Jan. 8.
The provisional suspension only came into effect on Jan. 14, some 10 days later.
The press release indicates that Jarry has chosen, so far, not to exercise his right to contest the assessing of a provisional suspension.
Those are some old-school steroids. Tests to detect them have been around for eons. If you test positive for them, you’re either innocent or … super careless.
“We have never doubted Nicolás Jarry’s innocence in this matter. Nicolás is one of the most correct people in national tennis and we are completely sure that this is a case of cross contamination of a multivitamin that Nicolás consumes two years ago ”, the statement from the federation said.
They also posit that the sample contained “a trillionth of a gram” of the banned substance. And that six days before that positive test, Jarry had been tested, and got the all clear.
The federation also states that Jarry tested negative in “more than 25 tests” over the last two years – the period Jarry says he has been taking a multivitamin they posit was cross-contaminated in the manufacturing process.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how both these appeals turn out.