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 – agen sbobet terpercaya– 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.

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