Tennis is not an exception among other sports where doping (administering drugs by athletes in order to enhance their sporting performance) is extensively observed, though in this sport there have been fewer sensational disclosures than, for example, in cycling (remember Lance Armstrong) and baseball.
Definitely, tennis has a steroid problem. But how common is it?
Statements of officials and athletes
Back in 2002, the President of the Australian Agency for Doping in Sport John Mendoza said that in tennis “prohibited steroids and other substances that artificially increase the physical potential of athletes are extensively used.” According to him, the leaders of world tennis do not take adequate measures to eliminate this problem. It is noteworthy that, according to the head of the Agency, which controlled this area at the Sydney Olympics, the greatest spread of doping was among tennis players.
John McEnroe, a retired US tennis player, in 2002, in an interview to London’s Daily Telegraph said that he had regularly taken anabolic medications, but unknowingly: “For six years I was given steroids, which, incidentally, as I later learned, were also given to horses. Then it was decided to withhold them, because they proved to be strong even for horses.” However, he did not specify who had given him steroids and what kind of effect he had experienced.
The famous tennis player Andre Agassi in the autobiographical book “Open: An Autobiography” (which was published in 2009) wrote about his father’s giving him amphetamine. In 1997, he regularly took methamphetamine. And his urine sample test showed a positive result. Then Agassi wrote the explanation stating that the allegedly prohibited means had been in the cocktail that his assistant had been drinking, and he only accidentally had taken a sip from his glass. “The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) experts believed me or pretended to believe. And they forgot about this incident”, wrote Agassi in his book. However, the ATP should have disqualified him, since the athlete himself is responsible for the presence or absence of banned substances of his body. However, after Agassi managed to avoid disqualification, he began a new life and stopped using drugs.
In 2016, Russian athlete Svetlana Kuznetsova told Russian journalists about her attitude towards tennis and steroids. “The problem is not in these athletes, but in the system. The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules needs reviewing because of messages where they ask to be more careful because of the attacks of hackers. We have to change the codes, where we write our diaries with time and place of residence, so that they can come to us for doping control. This is a threat to the safety of any athlete. Few people really understand what we can take and what not. This is a big problem for tennis players”, she said.
Antidoping tests and programs in tennis
For the first time the ATP introduced selective doping control in its tournaments in 1990. In 2002, ITF concluded an agreement with the WADA on conducting doping tests, including out-of-competition tests (without prior notification). In 2007, ITF assumed control and responsibility for anti-doping procedures in ATP and WTA. In this connection, the “Tennis Anti-Doping Program” was developed, the purpose of which was to ensure the integrity of the game and protect the health of players.
The program applies to players participating in top tennis tournaments, such as Grand Slam tournaments, Davis Cup, and others.
Tennis players who used steroids
Here is a list of some famous tennis players who took steroids:
- Guillermo Coria. In 2001, anabolic steroid was found in his body. Guillermo Coria claimed that nandrolone had entered his body as a result of vitamin supplements. His family conducted an independent examination and it turned out that those supps had been contaminated with steroids. As a result, the disqualification was reduced to 7 months, which had just passed by that time.
- Serena Williams. Serena was not caught in the use of anabolic steroids. However, looking at her physique you may suspect that she is on “juice.” This tennis player is known to have taken corticosteroids for the treatment of injuries. By the way, it is known that cortisone injections (shots) can be made in elbow to treat the so-called tennis elbow.
- David Sebok. The Slovak tennis player was convicted of using three banned 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, before the tournament “Roland-Garros” (Paris) nandrolone was found in the body of this Bulgarian athlete. Cecil received a two-year suspension.
- Climent Gregori. In 2013, in the body of the Spaniard stanozolol was found. The athlete was disqualified for two years.
This is not a complete list of players who used steroids or other prohibited medicines. To describe them all we would need dozens of articles.
The bottom line on tennis and steroids
Thus, the problem of steroids in tennis is quite common. Many tennis players, even the most famous ones, took steroids and other prohibited medicines. However, experts note that leading tennis players rarely appear in doping scandals, while players with a low rating and beginning tennis players are often caught in using prohibited drugs. Perhaps this is due to some loyalty to the top players, as in the case with Andre Agassi.