Tennis – Performance Drugs? Or No Performance Drugs!

In recent years the World of Cycling has been turned upside down by doping cases involving all kinds of top stars, “Le tour de France” leaders and recent winners tainted with the doping question.

This got me thinking about our little world of tennis and in all fairness these questions popped up in my mind, what if:

– Police raids, like those in cycling in Italy, France, Spain or Belgium, were made at all major tournaments’ Australian Open, Miami Open, Italian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open at the tennis player’s guest houses and hotels? What would the Police find? Nothing?

– Independent labs examined the blood and urine samples presented by the players rather then labs controlled either by the ATP or ITF? Would the results be different?

Since the ATP and the ITF run the drug testing programs, isn’t this a bit of the case of the fox in the chicken coop? And I decide who gets eaten or not? Which some South American players often complain about. “BBC SPORT Tennis boosts drug testing Friday, 28 June, 2002, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK”

Are drugs and doping systems like; Steroids (Anabolic), EPO, HGH (Growth Hormone), cocaine, amphetamines and some other forms of blood doping not effective in tennis? Well, these and many more questions started reeling in my ever curious mind and I decided to investigate a bit and learned that:

“Blood doping is the process of artificially increasing the amount of red blood cells in the body in an attempt to improve Athletic performance. In the past this was accomplished by a blood transfusion. The athlete would “donate” a unit of blood into storage and then 3 weeks later, after the body had completely replaced the blood loss, transfuse the unit back into the body. This would occur just before a big race, effectively giving the athlete an “extra” unit of blood. This enables performance improvements in endurance sports because of the extra oxygen carrying capacity. The practice has been outlawed. Not just because it is unfair but because of the dangers involved. EPO has put a whole new spin on blood doping. No need for messy transfusions, just shoot up with EPO to increase your circulating erythrocyte mass. Until recently accurate testing has been difficult because the recombinant human EPO made in the lab is virtually identical to the naturally occurring form and there are no firmly established normal ranges for EPO in the body. The only previously available route to curtail cheating for sports governing bodies was to ban an athlete if the hematocrit (see side bar) level was too high (e.g., above 50%). Thus, over the past 10 – 15 years some athletes chose to cheat because, as long as they kept their hematocrit levels below 50%, there seemed little risk of getting caught. Of course the other way to get caught was highlighted in the disastrous 1998 Tour de France. Several team doctors and personnel from several teams were caught red-handed with thousands of doses of EPO and other banned substances. Ultimately about 50% of the teams withdrew from the race – either for cheating or in protest” Rice Edu – Erythropoietin Feb. 2005 Mark Jenkins Whoa! At this point my brain started racing at 100’000 miles an hour, boy what this could do to tennis players!?! And what about steroids?

“Anabolic steroids are drugs that resemble androgenic hormones (sometimes called male hormones) such as testosterone. Athletes consume them in the hope of gaining weight, strength, power, speed, endurance, and aggressiveness.” Thomas D. Fahey Exercise Physiology Laboratory, California State University, Chico, Chico CA 95929 USA We all know that tennis benefits from all of those!

So I went on with my digging and:

– Following on comments made by Nicolas Escude former ATP player at the French open 2002. In Paris, French Davis Cup player Escude said: “To say that tennis today is clean, you have to be living in a dream world.” Have things changed?

– “SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — John McEnroe has reportedly admitted he unknowingly took steroids during his tennis career.

“For six years I was unaware I was being given a form of steroid of the legal kind they used to give horses until they decided it was too strong even for horses,” McEnroe was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph newspaper in Sydney on Monday.” CNN – WorldSport – Report: McEnroe admits to steroids – Sunday, January 11, 2004 Posted: 8:52 PM EST (0152 GMT) The Associated Press – Then I read that; “In his book ”You Cannot Be Serious”, McEnroe said he suspected that steroids and amphetamines had made their way into the top levels of the sport in the 80’s. “

– This made me think about other guys, Vitas Gerulaitis came to mind and the FBI investigation on cocaine: The New York Times, Gerulaitis Trailed, Agent Testifies By UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL Published: August 31, 1982

All of this got me really ticked off because I played during the Gerulaitis/McEnroe era and these guys whose games I respected and enjoyed (especially McEnroe’s), were these guys after all just cheats?!…and how many more were then cheating and are the new top players cheating today as well?

Then I thought about the Petr Korda a Wimbledon steroid doping case that was aired to the press anonymously and kept under wraps by the ITF/ATP for almost 3 months since they received the results!…Are we kidding, what’s the official message here?

This last question has me wondering about certain goings on in tennis of latter years that are outright disturbing.

Unless induced with illegal means, performance has a pretty much up and down curve of progress and two players that at the beginning of their careers were close in their matches, the results tend to be close throughout life. When do things start getting suspicious? I’ll give you an example:

– A player has 3/5 win loss against another player and plays him on clay where he has always lost and beats the other player in straight sets 6/2 6/3 in a major event.

Other examples of suspicios “progress”:

– A player that is way past his prime and whose performance was in decline, all of a sudden comes to a major and wins six five setter matches playing like he’s possessed by the devil, running like a 20 year old, dropping one set only along the way, with on court temperatures sometimes over 40 degrees Celsius! Spaghetti alone cannot do that, something must be in the water!

– Another tell tale sign is, if a player is too dominant for too long! As we all know there is no amount of training that can retrograde the natural cycle of regeneration of our cell system, meaning several losses in a year should be the norm for any player because of the natural low red blood cell count resulting in lack of performance, unless foul play is involved; Within a year this natural cycle of renewal repeats itself about 12 times in high and low cycles of approximately 21 days each! If a Superman exists among our tennis stars that can beat such cycles, I’m sure scientists do not believe in it!

– Players flying home in between rounds during Grand Slam events! Hum? Is this a new form of training? Boy oh boy all alarm bells and the “Big Ben” start ringing!

– A player that was winning or getting to almost every final of each tournament he played, after the “Big Ben” started ringing does not do anything for almost 8 months! Was there an official warning and the whole thing was thrown under the rug?

– The dubious presence of suspicious types on the player’s “entourage”! When the ATP has great professionals right there on site at the player’s disposal day in and day out?

How easy is it to cheat? Apparently, very, very easy!

In time I saw three major TV documentaries/interviews one with Lyle Alzedo Famous Football player LA Raiders, ( Not the size of the dog in the fight by Mike Puma Special to ESPN.com ), then Ben Johnson (100 meters runner) Ben Johnson, “Drugs & the Quest for Gold – Broadcast in Canada by CTV and Discovery channel between July 10th and July 16th, 2004. More recently after the 2006 Tour de France I saw an interview on German TV with a Spanish ex-professional bicycle rider Tour de France level and from seeing and earing their statements and the ones of their doctors the conclusion to make is; what all athletes using performance enhancing drugs have in common is:

– Its all about when they get injected with anabolic, HGH or EPO or G.O.R.K.(God Only Really Knows!)

– If there is enough time between the drug intake and the competition, apparently they will get a clean test during the competition. (That’s why Rasmussen missed random drug tests May 8 and June 28, saying he was in Mexico, when in fact, he was seen in Italy!)

– In interviews, athletes have declared to have year around performance enhancing drug programs with their physicians that have it all studied to the T!

– When caught they did not take anything illegal, here is an example of a great explanation by Dieter Baumann German Olympian; “that someone had manipulated his toothpaste “…. I must add …and pigs have wings and fly, my son! Dieter Baumann From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The past BALCO controversy or the more recent Spanish blood doping (EPO) labs are two known cases of top athletes using professional cheating. One of the main culprits at the Spanish Lab Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes declared: “Treatment only for cyclists? I’m also indignant about that. I’ve worked with other sports, like athletics, tennis and football. There are a lot of names that haven’t come out, there has been only selective leaks. I don’t know why.” Doping probe doctor treated other sportsmen By Simon Baskett Reuters Wednesday, July 5, 2006; 12:26 PM The Washingtonpost

Is this a cover up? A selective witch hunt?

– In many cases athletes who get caught do not name others, but claim that many, if not all at the top of their sports, are using performance enhancing drugs! This is highly disturbing!

Considering that the tennis circuit and tennis business overall is in the billions of dollars, all of what I just wrote and much more which would turn this article into a book, make me ponder about the seriousness of officials in curbing performance enhancing drugs in tennis and leads me to the question:

– Should we legalize performance enhancing drugs in tennis/sports?

Now lash out at me! Tell me what you think? Are the Kings and Queens of our beloved tennis tainted or is this just a figment of my altered imagination? The forum is yours…

No matter how much you are going to batter me, my next article will be:

Should we legalize performance-enhancing drugs in tennis/sports?

Final note: Sadly another sports man is under suspition: Wednesday, August 16, 2007, ” Thorpe, 24, retired from competitive swimming last November, but was dismayed to learn his test results had been leaked to the French newspaper L’Equipe, which reported the swimmer’s test produced abnormally high readings for testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH), both products figuring on the list of banned substances.” Ian Thorpe in fight to clear name of doping – PerthNow By Adam Cooper August 16, 2007 03:50pm Article from: AAP [http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22256056-5005401,00.html] “ASADA is alleged to have picked up the irregularity on the sample, but in another test, found the increased levels to be naturally occurring and dismissed the case. “ (Why would ASADA nail one of their home boys?)

For quick access to all links to the referenced articles please go to www.tenniscruz.com