Drug tests drive aces of tennis to water
By Mark Fuller
January 21, 2004
Top tennis players were too scared to use sports drinks and vitamins because of fears that they would be accused of drug use, the Spanish player Albert Costa said yesterday.
Fear had gripped players since Greg Rusedski of Britain tested positive to the steroid nandrolone, he said.
"Everybody's afraid. Everybody's talking in the locker room, [saying], 'Be careful of this, be careful of that'," Costa said after beating Rusedski at the Australian Open.
Costa, a former world No. 6 who is now ranked 26, said he felt vulnerable and had put on hold his usual regimen of vitamin C, magnesium and complex vitamin supplements. Players could suffer during five-set matches played in hot conditions because they no longer felt able to take their supplements, he said. "My feeling is that right now you cannot drink electrolytes or something. I'm completely afraid. I've stopped taking everything."
Costa said that after a blood test last month his doctor had told him his iron levels were too low, and he lived in fear while taking iron supplements.
"So I was taking iron . . . you are afraid. A lot afraid."
Rusedski said yesterday that he hoped six other players who had tested positive to the same drug would come forward to help him when his case was heard on February 9.
The identities of the six, who Rusedski said he believed were innocent, and 36 others who showed elevated nandrolone levels, have not been revealed.
Rusedski said he had the support of the Czech player Bohdan Ulihrach, who was suspended for two years in 2001 after returning a positive dope test.
After Ulihrach's case was heard it was discovered that other players had also shown elevated levels of nandrolone, and the source was traced to mineral supplements, electrolytes and other supplements given by Association of Tennis Professionals trainers to the players on the tour during matches or training.
Ulihrach had his suspension lifted and six unnamed players had their cases dropped.
Costa said he had no problem with testing by the association.
But he said it was up to it to ensure players were taking uncontaminated supplements. He feared the number of players showing elevated levels indicated that food or drink might have been tampered with.
His calls echoed those of the Australian doubles champion Todd Woodbridge, who said on Sunday that the ATP should provide players with a list of permitted energy drinks and dietary supplements.