It is incomprehensible how destiny can ruin your life at any time. On 11 January 2018, Alizé Cornet was charged by the ITF with missing three out-of-competition drugs tests that were to be conducted between November 2016 and October 2017.
Under WADA rules, Cornet could face a suspension of up to two years. In the 'Behind the Racquet' blog, the French tennis player told a really distressing and almost traumatic episode for her: “In 2018 I received my final ‘no show’ with the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, which ended up being the toughest six months of my life.
I didn’t know if I would be able to continue my career. The first no show was in November of 2016. I remember I had an early flight where I had to be at the airport around 6:30 and I forgot to change my appointment with the doping control officer.
They came to my house when I was already on my way to the airport. I then asked them if I could turn and come home but they said I would be too late and they couldn’t count it. I knew that was my first no show. It happened exactly the same way for my second no show in July of 2017.
I had an early flight in the morning to go to the States where I had to be at the airport at 6:00 or 6:30 and I forgot to change it again. They called me while I was at the airport and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is not possible.’ I asked them to come to the airport to test here but of course, they didn't want to move.
I tried to explain to the ITF my situation and that it wasn't bad intentions but just bad luck that I forgot to change the times. I sent them all my plane tickets and the proof that I was actually going to the airport for my flight.
I tried to appeal many times, but they didn't want to hear me out, so there was my second no show. Then started my constant fear of getting my third and final no show. I felt this weight on my shoulder that they could appear at any moment and if i got my third no show everything would be over.
It was getting so bad that even my mother would have nightmares thinking they were ringing her doorbell in the middle of the night. This was traumatic for the whole family, not just myself. Now it’s October and I get a notification from the ITF telling me that I had a third no show.
I remember reading this email and not understanding a single word they were telling me. I was in shock because I did everything possible to make sure this didn’t happen. I was home each time I said I would be and made no mistakes.
This email came out of nowhere and I had no idea how it was possible that I got that third one. My world fell down. The ITF continued to shut me up as they said we have information that all of this happened. You can give them whichever proof you have, it doesn't matter.
This was really my first interaction with the ITF. I didn’t really know how they worked, but now I do. They are supposed to be there to help the players but it seems that the idea gets lost sometimes. I understand it might be tough but they have do better at realizing it is not always the player making the mistake, the controller is human as well.
It was impossible to talk to ITF when most of the time I was receiving automated emails, not even a real person. I think the ITF has to find a better balance between being tough enough to fight doping in the sport but having that human aspect to be compassionate at times for the player.
They made me feel hopeless. It is really tough for 12 years to let them know where you are every day of your life, it is only normal for mistakes to be made. I felt constantly anxious and angry. I was someone who didn’t even take paracetamol when I had a headache and here I am dealing with getting suspended for doping.
I did what I could to take some good out of it. I actually had a new perspective because I was living day by day without looking into the future, taking in everything I could. I couldn't protect myself further than 1st of May, so I didn’t.
The most ironic thing of all was how well I began to play, in my worst state of mind. I remember getting the news from my lawyer saying I was acquitted; it was one of the best days of my life. I finally had the chance to rid myself of this story.
My family and I can finally get back to normal. They finally heard my story, believed me and found me not guilty. I felt so relieved for the next month and played as if I got another life, that everything is a bonus now. I found it funny that only a few months later it went back to normal.
You think something as painful as that situation will change you forever, but in reality it really isn’t enough to change everything. All the old tennis habits came back, like getting angry on court. I did deal with mental health injuries after this.
It took until 2019 for me to really get over everything that happened. I am finally more relaxed, looking at my career and understanding that if things went differently, this would all be over”.