September 23, 2023

Open Court


Andrej Martin suspended 14 months for doping

Most of the time, the players nabbed for doping or match-fixing tend to be rather obscure players that most tennis fans haven’t heard of.

But on Thursday, a player that many might recognize – at least, those who cast their gaze outside the biggest courts at ATP tournament, was suspended.

The ITIA announced that a former top-100 player, Andrej Martin of Slovakia, was suspended for 14 months for a positive doping test.

Martin, now 33, reached his career high of No. 93 just before tennis shut down during the pandemic, in Feb. 2020.

He tested positive at the Bratislava Open in June, 2022 for SARM S-22, which stands for “Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator”, and is a prohibited anabolic agent better known as Ostarine.

It’s often found in supplements, and isn’t illegal although it is banned by WADA. It’s used often by bodybuilders and is promoted as “better” than anabolic steroids because you can increase muscles without the same side effects.

Martin at Roland Garros in 2016

Instead of four years, 14 months

That’s when the kicker … kicks in.

The ITIA guidelines say that a first offence can lead to a four-year suspension, unless the player can prove it was unintentional.

And that’s what Martin appears to have done. His story is that he played in a floorball tournament in early June 2022, and he “mistakenly drinking from a teammate’s water bottle, identical in appearance to his own, during the floorball tournament.”

Martin at the 2015 Australian Open

The teammate testified that he had added ostarine drops to his water bottle. And the Tribunal considered that plausible, thus reducing the sentence from the four-year guideline.

And then Martin shot himeslf in the foot, figuratively speaking.

Despite the positive test being announced to him in July 2022, Martin ran a triathlon and competed in “multiple” floorball tournaments in the wake of that, which is a contravention of the terms of his provisional suspension. (Floorball is also known as “floor hockey” and got big in the Nordic countries before expanding beyond; there are number of professional leagues and international competitions).

Under those terms, a suspended player cannot take part in any event “organised or sanctioned by a WADA signatory, national organisation, or signatory’s member association, or club or member organisation”.

So because of that, the 14-month sentence was pushed back. His hearing was held March 23, and the decision was rendered April 5. Which means that his suspension will last until June 5, 2024 where, had he complied, it would be over this fall.

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Momentous match vs Raonic in Oz

We first saw Martin play in the Australian Open qualifying in 2011.

It random; he was playing young Canadian Milos Raonic in the final round. And Martin had it, on his way to a straight-sets win and a first Grand Slam main draw in only his second attempt.

Except … he let it go. And it was Raonic who qualified for his second career major in HIS second attempt, beating Martin 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2.

Martin during his final round of qualifying at the 2011 Australian Open.
He let it get away – opening the door for Mllos Raonic’s career breakthrough.

It was a complete game changer for the Canadian.

Raonic went on to beat Bjorn Phau, Michael Llodra and Mikhail Youzhny before falling to David Ferrer in four sets in the round of 16 as he launched his career and jumped into the top 100 for the first time. He quickly went on to take two ATP titles indoors in the U.S. and by the time Roland Garros came around, Raonic was No. 27 in the world.

Former top-10 junior turned journeyman

Martin was the No. 8 junior in the world back in 2007, with good results in both singles and doubles (He won the 2006 junior Wimbledon tuneup at Roehampton with one partner and reached the final at the big show with Martin Klizan).

His career high of No. 93 was reached after he made the semifinals of the ATP Tour event in Cordoba, Agentina in Feb. 2020.

The best Grand Slam result came at Roland Garros in 2016, where he qualified (defeating Jan-Lennard Struff, among others), and won two rounds (including against Frenchman Lucas Pouille, ranked No. 31 at the time).

He fell to Raonic.

The end of Martin’s best Grand Slam run, the third round at Roland Garros in 2016, also came at the hands of Raonic.

The Slovak was ranked No. 158 at the time of the positive test, taken after he lost in the first round of that Bratislava Challenger (his fifth first-round loss in six tournaments). He last played in Trieste in mid-July, 2022.

He has earned nearly $1.6 million in his career. But when you divide that up over 15 years, minus expenses, it’s very likely he played floorball to augment his income.

Martin is currently ranked No. 554. But the few points from the events he played after the positive test will drop with the announcement. And points from reaching the final of a Challenger in Heilbronn, Germany in early May 2022 will also drop off in a few weeks.

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