Tennis is one sport where resorting to doping (administering drugs for sporting performance enhancing) is extensively observed, though in this sphere there have been fewer sensationalistic disclosures than, for example, in cycling (remember Lance Armstrong).
Definitely, tennis has a steroid problem. But why?
Statements of Officials and Athletes
Back in 2002, John Mendoza, who was the President of the Australian Agency for Doping in Sports claimed that in tennis athletes also use banned substances, including steroids, which dramatically increase their physical potential. He added that, unfortunately, the world tennis community ignored this and didn’t eliminate the problem. The head of the Agency which controlled this field at the Sydney Olympics, also admitted that the sport of tennis was filled with widespread offenders.
John McEnroe, a retired US tennis player, said in an interview to London’s Daily Telegraph (in 2002) that the regular taking of anabolics was a part of his preparation. He regretted doing so when he discovered that the steroids he took were also regularly given to horses and used in other veterinary practices. However, veterinarians opted to eventually withhold the steroids because they were too strong for the equines. McEnroe avoided specifying who had given him steroids and what kind of effect he had experienced.
Andre “The Punisher” Agassi wrote in his 2009 autobiographical novel “Open: An Autobiography” that his father gave him amphetamines. In 1997, his urine sample tested positive for methamphetamines. Agassi stated that the alleged prohibited substance had been in a cocktail that his assistant had been drinking, and he took a sip from his glass. “The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) experts believed me, and forgot about this incident,” noted Agassi in his book. Obviously, the ATP’s reaction wasn’t adequate. The athlete should have been disqualified for the presence of the prohibited substance in his body. However, after Agassi managed to keep away from the sanctions, he started his life with a clean sheet without drugs.
In 2016, Russian athlete Svetlana Kuznetsova told Russian journalists about her attitude towards tennis and steroids. “The problem isn’t in these athletes, but in the system. The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules need to be reviewed because of possible hackers’ attacks. We have to change the codes, where we write our place of residence, so they can come to us for doping control. Our safety is under the threat. This is a significant problem for tennis players,”, she said.
Anti-doping Tests and Programs in Tennis
The ATP introduced doping control in 1990. It selectively checked the athletes on the tournaments. In 2002, ITF and WADA signed an agreement, related to conducting doping tests, in particular, out-of-competition tests (without prior notification). ITF announced in 2007 that it took control and responsibility for these procedures in ATP and WTA. For this purpose, it developed the “Tennis Anti-Doping Program”, aiming at ensuring the game’s integrity and protecting the players’ health.
The program applies to participants of the major tennis tournaments, such as Grand Slam tournaments, Davis Cup, etc.
Tennis Has a Steroid Problem: Players who Used Illicit Drugs
Here is a list of some famous tennis players who took steroids:
Guillermo Coria, nicknamed El Mago (“The Magician”). In 2001, anabolic steroids were found in his body. He claimed that Nandrolone appeared in his body through vitamin supplements. His family conducted an independent examination, and it turned out that those supps had been contaminated with steroids. As a result, experts reduced the disqualification to 7 months, which had just passed by that time.
Serena Williams. Serena wasn’t caught in the use of anabolic steroids. However, looking at her physique you may suspect that she is on “juice.” She has taken corticosteroids to treat injuries. It is known that cortisone injections (shots) can be made in the elbow to cure the so-called tennis elbow.
David Sebok. The Slovak player was convicted of using three forbidden drugs (Clenbuterol, Nandrolone and ephedrine) before a tennis tournament in Milan in 2004. He was suspended from games for 2 years.
Sesil Karatantcheva. In 2005, “Roland-Garros” (Paris) tested positive for nandrolone was revealed. The Bulgarian athlete received a two-year suspension.
Climent Gregori. In 2013, in the blood of the Spaniard Stanozolol was found. The athlete was punished in the form of a two-year disqualification.
This is not a complete list of players who used steroids or other illegal medicines. To describe them all we would need dozens of articles. We can just note some figures of divulged doping cases: Pedro Braga, Kamila Kerimbayeva, Hamad Abbas Janahi, César Ramírez, Kateryna Kozlova, Kateřina Kramperová, Dimitar Kutrovsky, Viktor Troicki, Ignacio Truyol, Melle van Gemerden, Dmitry Vlasov, Filippo Volandri, Kristina Antoniychuk, Maximilian Abel, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, and Maria Sharapova (however, Masha also uses meldonium, she has stated that this is not a wrongdoing due to health issues).
The Bottom Line on Tennis and Steroids
Thus, the problem of steroids in tennis is a ghastly phenomenon which is common. Many tennis players aspire to achieve their goals using such an unwarrantable method. However, experts note that topline players are rarely in the center of doping scandals, while they often expose low rated athletes and beginners in doping-related episodes. Perhaps this is because of some loyalty to the top athletes as in the case with Andre Agassi.