Not even as a letter like the one you’ve written Beatriz Haddad Maia we will be able to understand how hard it must be to go through something like this. The 23-year-old Brazilian player saw her path in professional tennis stop last summer by an unexpected positive in a doping control. From that moment, her name was stained for many who did not even want to hear her, assuming she was guilty. Ten months later, that hell has come to an end and that of Sao Paulo finally breathes relief having closed the most sinister chapter of her career. Through the portal At the voice of tennis, where we already read Thomaz Bellucci last week, the Brazilian shows us her reality in the form of a letter. Below we rescue the most relevant.
“Today is May 22, the day I was most looking forward to in 2020. Today I am officially free to play tennis again, despite the pandemic. I can finally play tennis, I don’t need to think about anything other than what I like the most, my job, something I couldn’t do for almost a year. I missed him a lot, I can’t imagine that ten months have passed since then, the truth is that they have happened faster than I expected.
This has all been like a horror movie, a journey from heaven to hell. Also, it came right after my biggest professional win at Wimbledon against Garbiñe Muguruza. I was immensely happy, living an incredible moment in my life, until an email came from the ITF. That sat me like a punch in the stomach, I remember every detail of that moment. I was in Sao Paulo, having lunch with my cousins and my uncles while they played a game of Federer on television, until that notification came into my phone.
I had difficulty understanding it, until I read two words: provisional suspension. It was then that I understood it, it was a letter from the ITF related to WADA. I got up from the table, went to the bathroom and started crying. Much. I couldn’t even finish reading the letter, I shuddered, screamed in despair, I couldn’t accept that I had tested positive for a doping control. I wondered if it couldn’t be a mistake, if they hadn’t been wrong, that was not possible. I thought a thousand things but did not know where to start. I was completely lost.
It’s hard to describe your feelings when you see you get kicked out of tennis. Tennis is my job, my passion, my life, part of my family’s history. It hurt twice as much when I felt they were hurting me. My head was thinking about the next Grand Slam, the US Open, but my reality had changed, the priority was no longer tennis. Instead of going to the track, I had to go to the lawyer. Control of my future was in his hands. The scenario was uncertain, I did not see light at the end of the tunnel, I had nightmares every day for the first two months, it was impossible to sleep.
I saw my parents crying, although my family always remained positive. I was very afraid of what people might think, my responsibility was to be an example, to be an inspiration to children, but now many would think that I had been drugged. That feeling of doubt began to grow, people looked at me differently, I felt that everyone was wondering if I was a legal player or not. Some came to talk to me, but even those did so with some embarrassment. I began to be banned on the internet by people who had never heard, I was bombarded with Instagram with the emojis of the horse and the injectionThey even claimed that she had beaten Muguruza by being doped. My response was to protect myself.
The headache was so bad that it looked like it was going to explode at any moment. A lot of information came to me from everywhere, I needed to keep my mental health under control. I was trying not to open websites, not read news, be away from the phone, it was all very crazy. It was not easy to remain silent, I wanted to speak, but I was silent because of the strategy agreed with the lawyers for the defense approach. I knew I had done nothing, I was sure I could sleep at night, an error had occurred, period.
Being a public person, I know that I can influence people, families or children. I have sponsors who trust me, that their names were now related to doping is a very hard reality for an athlete. I called them one by one to explain my truth, but the rule is clear. The athlete is responsible for what he eats, so he was independent. If you do a test and an amount appears, no matter how small it is, the athlete pays it the same way. The AMA rules are very clear with the ITF, this is how the circuit works. In this case, it had been a human error, a pharmacy error, this was what showed the truth and later confirmed my defense.
The suspension could last up to four years, but I never thought it would last that long. I tried to stay optimistic, to think that I could prove my innocence. I didn’t deserve something like that. Maybe he needed to learn from that moment. In the end my sentence was ten months, the shortest time possible. On the other hand, the suspension was a moment from which I learned a lot, although it was the worst moment of my life. The support of my brothers, parents and grandparents was essential. I took the opportunity to be on birthdays, Christmas, New Years, Easter and many other moments with mine. I tried to see it differently, to be a little more grateful for the situation.
Waiting for the trial was the most exasperating. All procedures were by email, everything was very cumbersome and slow. It took a long time to respond to my messages, I got to be three months without any news. That uncertainty prevented me from making plans, I had lost all my sponsors, I had no cash prizes, I was on the edge. Finally the day came when I managed to demonstrate that I had no intention of ingesting these substances, I was always very serious, I tried to improve myself every day. Now the challenge is to play the Futures again with a new team, I’m sure things will turn out well, although I have learned that life is a roller coaster that is not under our control.
From now on, I want to put a lot of value on every ball I hit. Every day that passes without playing tennis will give me more pleasure when I step on the court. I have dreamed of my return several times, that is what I think the most at the moment. Every day I wake up I think about that first game, it is the dream that makes me wake up every day, work to be a better person and become a better player. But before you are tennis players, we all cry, suffer and go through difficult times. It may seem strange for an athlete to celebrate the last day of their suspension, but it is liberating to share this chapter of my story with you. I can assure you that from now on you will be stronger, more grateful, happier. I promise that I will hit every ball with all the force that I rediscovered within myself. ”