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Old 02-07-2012, 07:46 PM   #204
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Default Re: New blog post (179) (24/12/11) The Best Univesity In the World - by Amir Weintrau

Sick? Get a gramdma made remedy! - Drug testing on Tour.


I'd love to write about the Australian Open, but I'd rather pass. I can't even say I've had enough time to smell the courts in Melbourne. The hour and a half spent in the first qualification round was enough for me to pack my stuff and go home. So as far as I'm concerned, the 2012 AO does not and did not exist, and isn't interesting.

***

The hot topic amongst us players these days is the drugs issue. I mean, the drug testing. Two months ago, when I attended the ATP University in London, they gave us the 'black list' of what we can't and what we can take. Let's just say that if you are a tennis player, and you are a little sick or have a cold, you better go to your grandma to fix you some kind of herbal remedy.
You just can't take anything.
Here is a short list of conventional drugs that are in the black list – Aspirin, Advil, Coldex, sleeping pills, Alerin (nasal spray) - almost everything is a forbidden drug, and as the punishment of being caught is two years suspension, which is a death sentence for an athlete. Most tennis players try to avoid testing that reality.

As for me, I'm a little more panicky about this than the average player, so during the last Israeli championship in which I've participated not completely healthy, I preferred not to take anything, just from the fear of what would happen if took anything on the damn list. This panic is due to, among other things the 'wheeler-dealers' who hang around the players and offer them supplements and energy bars. When you are in a physical or a mental 'down' – you are willing to take anything. And yes, I've been offered stuff a couple of times, but realized I might regret the moment of temptation.

Not long ago, one of my best friends on Tour, Robert Kendrik, was caught using a caffeine pill. This guy came back to the States from Australia, and took the pill to avoid the jet-leg so he could return to practice. This pill does not improve your tennis whatsoever, and is allowed in other sports. Poor Kendrik, a 32 years old guy, was suspended for two years and can kiss pro tennis goodbye.

One of the biggest problems the tennis players face is the war the ITF wages on drugs. The law says that a tennis player must announce his whereabouts at any time, including publishing the schedule of where he is suppose to be in advance.
You can be tested in any moment in your life, no matter where you are, vacation, home or abroad, they call you and ask where you are, and tell you that a team of testers is heading your way within 12 hours, and stay put.

The law says that in case of a surprise test, you must be 60 minutes away from where you were supposed to be. In 2009 there were 49 cases of 'out of competition' tests that never happened, because tennis players weren't where they were supposed to be. If a tennis player does not have a very good case to explain his absence from where he was suppose to be, he's in big troubles.

During 2010, tennis players were tested for drugs 2075 times. 57% of those tests were for the men (equality, huh?). 10% of those are out of competition tests, meaning a surprise test. Lately there are more invasive tests as well, I mean blood tests, and that's a little more than 7% of the total number of tests. These tests have no order of frequency, which can drive players mad. In 2009, during the Australian Open, Serena Williams had to give urine. A day afterwards the testers showed up again, this time – she had to give urine and blood.

Naturally, the Grand Slams are where they get on the players' case the most – more than a third of the tests in tournaments in 2010 were in GS, including all of the invasive (blood) tests. But they get 'down below', too. 5% of all tests are done in small challengers.

Until last November, I've never been tested. And suddenly, in one month, I've been tested twice. Once in St. Petersburg, and two weeks ago after the match with Dudi Sela in the finals of Israel's championship. The test is very unpleasant, you don't go into the bathroom alone, but with a doctor who joins you and watches (watches, yes, yes) you pee in a cup to prevent hiding a clean sample under the shirt.

The moment you get the message you're about to be tested, you become 'the immediate suspect', and is constantly watched by the testing team. After the match at the Israeli championship, they've asked me to give a urine sample. Now go explain to them that you went to the bathroom before the match and got nothing to give them. In the exam room my fears have been confirmed – no pee. No pee? You are not going home. So you try all the tricks, they turned a tap next to me, maybe the noise of the running water would make something happen. Then they gave me a glass of hot water, to dip my fingers. They gave me water, they gave me coffee, when that did not help – we've moved to beer.

Three hours after the match, when the place was deserted, I've managed to pee 90 cc which liberated me and gave me a 'pass ' to be 'released' home for Friday dinner.

-----

BTW, Amir have recently joined twitter, if you guys want to follow him -

https://twitter.com/#!/amirweintraub


Last edited by Or Levy : 02-07-2012 at 10:05 PM.
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