The Interview Todd Martin: What's Wrong with Water? Marathon Man Serves a Warning to the Nandrolone Set ; American in the Twilight of His Career Is Urging Players to Keep It Safe and Clean. Ronald Atkin in Barcelona Meets a Principled Pioneer
Atkin, Ronald, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Todd Martin's T-shirt bears a simple message: Life Is Good. Being Todd, of course, the words are of modest size. Despite standing 6ft 6in in his socks, Martin is arguably the most unassuming athlete produced by the United States. The nicest, too. "El Americano Diferente", Todd was called by the daily sports paper in Barcelona, where he was competing last week, his 14th season on the professional tennis tour.
Though closing in on the end of his time as a player, Martin will certainly not be lost to the game. His mild protests and long, meritorious service as president of the ATP Player Council notwithstanding, he is certain to be involved in working for the good, and the future, of the game. Good guys, nice guys, like him are too precious to be waved goodbye, especially when you look down the rocky road tennis has had to travel in the past 12 months.
Martin will be 34 in July and around the same time, during Wimbledon fortnight, he will hand over the role of president of his union, a post he has filled for nine of the past 11 years. Of those years, the last one has been the most arduous, summed up in one word: nandrolone.
The ATP did not so much shoot itself in the foot as lop off a limb with a blunt axe with the revelation that nandrolone had been supplied by its own training staff in supplements. Now, however, Martin believes control has been regained. "We have a strong anti- doping programme and it's time to let some of the dust settle from what has happened in the last 12 months."
That said, he does not hesitate to point the presidential finger, laying blame on what he calls "criminal" behaviour by the supplement manufacturers, whose products were unregulated and ingredients unlisted. He also condemns those players who continued to take the products of companies responsible for the banned substances. "They knew they were not supposed to take anything else [after the supplements ban] but they just said, `We are taking these'. The fact that we have been dealing with so many traces of nandrolone that are below the positive test level is hopefully not as damaging to our sport as it should be to the producers of those supplemental beverages and powders.
"We all need certain nutrients in order to succeed physically. That's why I say it would be nice if the manufacturers were held accountable for some of the situations that their products have created. But also the players need to understand they are competing on a level playing field.
"There are guys out there who probably don't take much more than water and the food that they eat, but compete on a daily basis just as hard as everybody else but do a better job of preparing themselves. Or are possibly just genetically more capable of enduring the stress we put on our bodies. Genetically, Roger Federer is a much better athlete than I am, or ever was. But I just can't complain about it and say, `Give me something so that I am on a par with him'."
Martin's supplements, he says, have been reduced to water and Gatorade. "That's it. At times I have taken a multi-vitamin which is more or less the most popular one in the States, but in the light of all that has gone on in the last six months I've stopped taking it as well. There are times when I look in the mirror and think I should probably be taking vitamin C or something, but instead I go to the refrigerator and drink some orange juice.
"After so many years I am well aware that I have won tournaments where all I drank was water. I have played well where all I drank was Gatorade. I have played well when I took multi-vitamins. But I have played well when I didn't, and also played badly in the same scenarios.
"It is just a matter of coming to terms with what truly is legal and what truly is safest, whatever will preserve the reputation that you want to have. For me, if I lose one, two, three or 10 matches because of it, I accept that. …