Note: For the fifth year in a row, I am serving as Chief Tournament Physician of the Family Circle Cup. Each day of the tournament, I am writing an article for The Post and Courier and Family Circle Cup.
Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs have received a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. Baseball is the sport that seems to a certain extent to have been singled out, but football, basketball, swimming, track, cycling, and others have had athletes test positive for PED’s. Does tennis have that same problem? Personally, I don’t know, but professional tennis does take drug testing seriously.
The ATP Tour was openly criticized a couple of years ago when it started testing its top men’s players throughout the year and not just in the offseason. The players have to provide their locations for one hour of every day of the year. If a player misses random drug testing visits during these hours three times, he can be fined or suspended.
One concern among tennis players and athletes of other sports is the fear of taking medications for any number of medical conditions that could be banned by their sports. As a physician for pro teams and events, I see the lists of these banned medications. Some are banned outright, while some require exemptions from the sport’s governing body for that player to take.
What makes following those rules challenging is that the medications on those lists change frequently. Players, trainers, and physicians all have to be extra careful to check to see if taking a medication is allowed prior to doing so. As fans of sports have seen, using the excuse that they didn’t know is almost never successful.
Supplements are another area which players have to be especially cautious. Vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and even muscle-building substances like creatine, are used commonly by the general population. A pro athlete has to be careful to ensure that these substances are not banned by his or her sport’s governing body. In addition, reports that legal products are tainted with illegal substances are not uncommon. Athletes, including pro tennis players, cannot hide behind the excuse of not knowing, as they are responsible for everything they put into their bodies. Fortunately the WTA Tour allows its professional women’s players to take supplements from a nutritional company, USANA Health Services. The tour deems supplements from USANA to be pure, but its athletes can only take supplements from USANA and no other company.
In this era of fan skepticism over tainted records and incredibly muscular male and female athletes, pro sports like tennis are trying to rid themselves of performance-enhancing drugs. Let’s hope these efforts work.
Read my daily posts from the 2011 Family Circle Cup!
Day 1: Tennis players among world’s elite athletes
Day 2: Do our clay courts decrease injuries?
Day 3: What’s on the menu for pro tennis players?
Day 4: Best Tennis Town in America
Day 5: Wind hurts more than players’ games
Day 6: Is kinesio taping hype or helpful?
Day 7: The sun can be dangerous for tennis players
Day 9: Medical aspects of professional tennis