Tennis: Playing it safe by keeping medicine basic

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 10:47 PM

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - The shock of Maria Sharapova's failed drug test has cast a spotlight on the attention to detail her fellow players apply to medications and supplements, and most say they take as little as possible.

With Russian Sharapova now facing a ban of up to four years pending an investigation by the International Tennis Federation, the tennis world has been served a timely reminder that playing safe when it comes to drugs is always the best strategy.

"You can get pretty generic stuff now that makes you feel better if you're sick and it's got to be a very special case for me to take something specific," big-serving American Sam Querrey told Reuters on Wednesday.

"You've just got to be responsible for everything you take. You have to check everything in this day and age with USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency). I don't take caffeine. I just drink water and Gatorade.

"I don't even take any shakes or mixed drinks or anything like that. If I have flu, I take an aspirin or a Tylenol (paracetamol). I keep it very basic."

Spanish left-hander Rafa Nadal, a 14-times grand slam champion, adopts a similar strategy.

"I am not taking many things," Nadal told reporters at Indian Wells ahead of the BNP Paribas Open. "I am just taking the things when I am on the tennis court, in the orange bottles.

"I use two bottles - one has water and one has only mineral salts, and that's it. Anti-inflammatories sometimes - Ibuprofen or Voltaren.

"The other things I sometimes take are natural things, just medicine if I have need to overcome something when I feel not good."

Sharapova stunned the tennis world with her announcement on Monday that she had tested positive for meldonium, which some researchers have linked to increased athletic performance and endurance.

MADE 'A HUGE MISTAKE'

Though she had been taking the Latvia-pioneered drug for a decade on the advice of her family doctor, it has been outlawed by the World Anti-Doping Agency since Jan. 1 but the Russian said she made "a huge mistake" and continued using it.

That error by one of the most experienced players on the WTA circuit shocked her peers and has refocused their attention to their own medical needs.

"If any of my friends or I go to a doctor, we bring our banned list and that's how we go if we are getting medications or supplements," American doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 30, told Reuters.

"You go on the USADA website and look up pretty much any supplement, any ingredient, any medication. And it's due diligence, it's a part of being a pro athlete.

"The lists change when new medications come out, and you always have to be aware of that. From my first day as a professional, they tell you that you are responsible for everything that's in your body."

While Nadal does not check for himself the email notifications sent to players before the start of each year about substances and medications on the banned list, he has implicit trust in his medical team.

"My doctor is the doctor of the Spanish Federation with a lot of years experience," said the Spaniard. "He is the doctor for all the Spanish tennis players so I have full confidence in him and I never take nothing that he doesn't know.

"I am a completely clean guy. I have worked so much during my career and if I get an injury, I get injured. I never take nothing to come back quicker.

"I believe in sport, the values of sport. If I am doing something that goes against that, I will be lying to myself, not lying to my opponents, and that will be something really bad for me. I never had the temptation of doing negative things."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)