Germany`s Haas allegedly poisoned before Davis Cup match against Russia
Tommy Haas` apparent garden-variety stomach virus that sidelined him on the decisive day of the Davis Cup semifinal in Moscow in September against Russia took on sinister implications when allegations surfaced Wednesday that he was poisoned.
International Tennis Federation official Bill Babcock said in a telephone interview from Madrid that the organization will launch an investigation and plans to interview Haas` German Davis Cup teammate, Alexander Waske, among others. It was Waske who first revealed that Haas may have been poisoned.
Russia went on to win that day and will play the U.S. in the Davis Cup final in Portland, Ore., starting Nov. 30.
"We`ll move as fast as we can before people forget what was said," said Babcock, the ITF`s Grand Slam coordinator and Davis Cup executive director.
Haas, who still feels unwell six weeks after the incident, is scheduled to travel to New York today for additional rounds of medical testing, according to his representatives. He has been in Rio de Janeiro for commercial commitments.
Waske detailed to German media outlets a recent conversation he had with a Russian player manager.
"Someone came to me and said, `It was a tight match, it`s a shame Tommy was poisoned,` " Waske told the German news agency SID.
Waske said he told the manager, who was not named, that Haas, 29, merely had a virus. The manager replied: " `Believe me, Alex, I know Moscow. There are people who can make these kinds of things happen.` "
This comes as the latest in a steady stream of lurid news in the sport: Gambling, cocaine and now an allegation of poisoning. If tennis was trying to get back into the news, this was hardly the ideal way to grab headlines with the latest stunner coming straight out of a Russian spy novel.
Last week, it was Martina Hingis` blockbuster twin announcement that she was retiring from tennis again and that she tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon this year.
Since early August, Russian star Nikolay Davydenko, who played in the semifinal in question against Germany, has been the focus of an ongoing investigation into alleged match-fixing after irregular betting patterns surfaced during his second-round match in Sopot, Poland.
Haas even entered the dialogue this week of the growing gambling story when he was quoted as saying his colleagues needed to start naming names.
But since the Davis Cup semifinal loss to Russia, Haas has continued to feel so poorly that he had to reject a wild card into a tournament in Lyon, France -- needing to get a blood test -- and didn`t feel right in a third-round loss to Mikhail Youzhny last week in Paris, moving sluggishly, which ended his bid to make the upcoming season-ending Masters Cup in Shanghai.
"He told me he still feels something wrong," said a source close to Haas. "He`s been sick all the time, but he said this is something he had never felt before."
Haas told SID of that night in Moscow: "I tried everything from swallowing tablets to syringes, nothing worked. It just made me feel worse. I really thought I would end up in the hospital."
ITF officials said that the meals served at the venue in Moscow come from the same source and that everyone eats the same food. But Haas indicated that the meal in question came from elsewhere.
"I`m shocked that something like that appears possible," Haas told the German newspaper Bild. "When I think of how bad I felt, I can imagine it.
" . . . I was the only one ever to order dessert or a latte macchiato after dinner. If all this is true, since no one else got sick, that must have been when it happened."
Afterward, Haas could not sleep that night and suffered from what he thought were typical symptoms of a stomach virus, but only this time it was much more pronounced and prolonged, keeping him in the bathroom most of the night and morning.
"I have never felt so miserable in my whole life as I did on the Saturday and Sunday nights in Moscow," he told SID.
" . . . I gave everything in order to win there. If I could have done anything else, I would have done it."
Unfortunately, the poisoning of opponents is not unprecedented in tennis. The father of two French junior players, Christophe Fauviau, is serving an eight-year jail term after he was convicted in 2006 of manslaughter, having drugged the drink of his son`s opponent, who then died in a car crash.
The United States Tennis Assn. was asked whether it planned any additional safeguards and precautions for the Davis Cup final.
"Obviously, the health and safety of all the players involved in the Davis Cup is a top priority," USTA senior director of public relations Chris Widmaier said. "We`re confident all the existing procedures we have are more than adequate."
Said U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe: "I don`t know what to make of it. Beyond bizarre. You could have never predicted it. Let`s see what happens first. If it actually did happen, I would be shocked."