Google Down the Line!: Martina Navratilova discusses being gay in tennis, doping, and Federer vs. Henin with Outsports

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Martina Navratilova discusses being gay in tennis, doping, and Federer vs. Henin with Outsports

Out and proud: The legendary Martina Navratilova recently sat down with gay blog Outsports on the set of Good Morning America where she was taping cooking segment. (Cooking - who knew?) Anyway, the 18-time Grand Slam champion gave a nice, lengthy interview to the blog and touched upon many topics including her recent appointment as Health & Fitness Ambassador for AARP, her experience as a gay athlete, the absence of openly gay male tennis players, her dream tennis student, doping & drug use, and her predictions on what will happen first: Roger Federer winning the French Open or Justine Henin grabbing the Wimbledon title.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Q: How did your relationship with the AARP come about?
A: They contacted me about doing an event a year ago, and I guess they liked what I brought to the table, so they wanted to expand the relationship.

Q: The way you’re looked at by society is athlete first. But most of the rest of the well-known openly gay athletes are known as gay first and athlete second. Why do you think society looks at you differently, as an athlete first before you’re gay?
A: I’m a woman first, because that’s been more limiting in a way, and it still is, depending on what country you’re born in. I want the fact that I’m gay to be irrelevant one day. It’s relevant now because we don’t have equal rights and we are discriminated against. One day they won’t even say gay, but right now it is part of leading the way and being a pioneer and leading the fight for equal rights for all of us. It might be because I became famous first as a tennis player and then I came out. But then it was still always “lesbian tennis player.”

Q: How much money in endorsement deals do you think you lost over the course of your career because you were out?
A: Oh gosh. I don’t know. Maybe $10 million? A lot.

Q: There are more and more out lesbians on the tour, but we still have never had an openly gay man in tennis. Why do you think that is?
A: I have no idea. I don’t personally know any who are gay, because none have come out to me.

Q: Really? That seems crazy.
A: Honest to God. I have suspicions, but I don’t know of one who’s definitely gay. I read that letter to Tennis magazine [in 1994] from an anonymous male player who said “thank you because we’re not all as brave as you are,” but I don’t know who they are. But I don’t know why. It can’t be because they’re all worried about endorsements, because most of them don’t get any anyway. [...] There were women I didn’t know were gay that I found out after. I would get a vibe from some players when I was playing. The ones who were very certain of their sexuality, one way or the other, were more friendly. And the ones who were less certain or were homophobic were not so nice. Or they were afraid that people would think they were gay because they were my friends. [...] There was a Russian player who wanted to play with me but her father wouldn’t let her play with me because I’m gay. And at the time she was a nobody. He liked me, he’d say hello to me, but he would not let her play. It’s bizarre, I could have been a help to her. Now she’s off the tour because of injuries.

Q: If you could coach one player on the men’s or women’s side, not necessarily the best player but the person you’d most like to get your hands on, who would it be?
A: It would have been Novak Djokovic [...] Justin Henin would have been a pleasure to work with. There’s a girl named Agnes Savay who is a great talent as well. She’s Hungarian. I saw her hit two shots and saw how she carried herself between shots and I thought, that kid is for real.

Q: How much recreational drug use is there on the tour?
A: Not much anymore because you get busted for it. I don’t think recreational drugs should be tested for, because they’re not performance-enhancing. As athletes we should be punished for cheating, but smoking pot is not cheating.

Q: Why do you think they test for recreational drugs?
A: Tennis is an Olympic sport, and the Olympics has a wide range of drugs that are not allowed. [...] My biggest problem with the drug testing is that they punish you before you’re proven guilty or not. So now with [Martina] Hingis, whether it was her sample is one question, or if someone put it in her drink or her food, she tests positive and now she can’t play and she has to clear her name. She can’t compete until the case is resolved, and that could take a year.

Q: Do you think Federer will ever win the French or Henin will ever win Wimbledon?
A: Yes, both. I think Henin has a better chance, because her game is better-suited to winning Wimbledon than Roger’s is for clay. But both could win it this year, and since the French comes first, Roger would do it first. If Nadal wasn’t around he would have already won it a couple times.

(image via

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview... I wish to Martina N. good luck and great mood :).


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