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WADA Director General responds to accusations of doping after Rafael Nadal’s French Open win

Within a week of his French Open haul, a record-extending 14th at the Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal has received quite a few backlash from fellow athletes. The criticism has followed after he revealed that he had used anaesthesia injections to keep his injured foot numb during the entire two weeks of French Open tournament. But the Spaniard has been defended by the World Anti Doping Agency themselves.

Nine days before the start of the tournament in Paris, Nadal had limped off the court in the Italian Open with his chronic foot pain. The injury had resurfaced again and Nadal’s participation was in doubt. The Spaniard however made it to Paris, but was written off as a potential title threat. But Nadal beat all odds to win his 14th Slam at Roland Garros and extended his career haul to 22. He now stands two clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time list.

Following his win in the final last Sunday, Nadal had admitted that he had to take injection in the nerve to ease from the pain. But this revelation did not do down well with French cyclist Thibaut Pinot as he said, “Today’s heroes…” before following up with: “The methods [used by Nadal] are simply prohibited in my sport, which is unfortunately so decried. Here is a little more precision on the sadness of my tweet.”

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However, speaking to Swiss TV channel RTS, Olivier Niggli, the Director General of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) denied that anesthetic injections have any influence on the performance of an athlete.

“If a product is on the list of prohibited products, it means that it has an effect on performance, that it is bad for health, and that it is contrary to the ethics of sport. Anesthetic injections are not prohibited. It’s not an oversight. The question arose. It was discussed. They are not on the list because they do not improve performance and are fundamentally not bad,” Niggli said.

“Is it a good medical practice? Is it acceptable for an elite athlete to get injections before a match? It’s a debate between doctors and a debate about medical ethics. Rafael Nadal has won 14 titles at Roland Garros. If he has won thirteen others without injections, it is probably not due to injections that he has won the 14th,” he added.

Niggli’s words were backed by the Spanish Society of Sports Medicine, who said, “Anaesthetic infiltrations are therapeutic procedures of wide and ancient use, both in the field of sport and in the workplace and in many others.”

Nadal however had revealed that he won’t be relying on such injections in the future and has recently undergone a new radiofrequency treatment for his foot.

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