|OT: Steroids the menace that stalks tennis||bevcor|
Jul 18, 2001 11:02 AM
|This is a bit off topic but thought would post it anyway.
Copyright 2001 Guardian Newspapers Limited
June 3, 2001
SECTION: Observer News Pages, Pg. 7
LENGTH: 804 words
HEADLINE: Steroids: the menace that stalks tennis: Stars back new crackdown on drug cheats as game strives to keep its image clean
BYLINE: by Denis Campbell Sports News Correspondent
IN THE past it was a game synonymous with strawberries, white clothing, lazy summer days and sportsmanship. But now tennis's image is under threat from a new breed of ruthless drug cheats who will do anything to win.
Amid fears that more stars are illegally boosting their performance, the sport is resorting to shock tactics in a bid to turn the tide. Risque humour and warnings of death are being used to keep players away from drugs.
One poster shows a coffin over the middle-line of a tennis court, while another aimed at male competitors links substance abuse to shrinking testicles with the cheeky slogan 'Do steroids for smaller balls'.
The pounds 250,000 initiative has been launched by the International Tennis Federation, the sport's usually conservative global ruling body, to stop tennis being corrupted in the way that athletics, cycling and swimming have been. The ITF describes steroid abuse as 'a very real and fast-growing problem'.
Players are given graphic descriptions of the medical dangers of taking steroids, including - for men - growing breasts, blood clots and liver failure. Women run the risk of developing facial hair, a deeper voice and smaller breasts and experiencing menstrual interference.
Top stars, including Monica Seles, Gustavo Kuerten and Martina Hingis, are back ing the initiative. Acknowledging both the attraction and the potential pitfalls of taking drugs, the Russian player Anna Kournikova said: 'There are many pressures to win on the junior circuit. The dangers of taking drugs may not be known to young people and I hope the ITF campaign will help change that. Drugs do not have a place in sports.'
The campaign's approach is raising eyebrows. 'Yes, it's shocking, but the results of abusing drugs can be shocking and we want to show that,' said Debbie Jevans, the ITF's director of anti-doping.
Tennis officials point out that, based on the number of positive drugs tests, they have a far less serious problem than many other sports. 'There aren't a lot of people that take drugs, and we want to ensure it stays that way,' said Jevans.
She stressed that the 2,000 tests the ITF carried out worldwide last year identified only one cheat. Argentina's Enrico Chela, who tested positive for a banned steroid, was suspended for three months and fined pounds 6,000 in prize money. Chela claimed the substance must, unknown to him, have been contained in vitamin and amino acid pills.
More high-profile players have also been caught. The former world number one, Mats Wilander, retired after testing positive for cocaine at the 1995 French Open, while Grand Slam winner Petr Korda was found to have the steroid nandrolone in his system at Wimbledon in 1998.
Tennis insiders say the handful of positive test results probably underestimate the true level of drug-taking.
'There is a problem. Some players are using steroids to keep up their strength and recover quickly from injury,' said one source. 'It's down to the multi-millions to be earned in the sport now and the large number of tournaments they're expected to play every year.'
Hamstring injuries - often a sign of steroid consumption - also appear to be on the increase.
And there are suspicions that the trend towards players being bigger and bulkier is as much down to drugs as intensive exercise.
Professor Vivian James, a steroid expert at London University, said: 'Given the amount of knowledge out there about the pharmacology of these drugs, if you
Jul 18, 2001 11:43 AM