Fernando Verdasco’s voluntary doping suspension opens a can of worms in tennis

Shahida Jacobs
Fernando Verdasco drinking water

Fernando Verdasco suspension following an anti-doping rule violation has set the tennis tongues wagging over Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) in the sport.

The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) confirmed on Wednesday that Verdasco tested positive for methylphenidate at ATP Challenger Tour event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The former world No 7 accepted the positive result, but told the ITIA it was as a result of medication prescribed by his physician to treat his ADHD, in accordance with a TUE.

Verdasco was hit with a voluntary two-month ban, which runs until January 2023, and he has since been granted a new TUE by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

His long-time rival Nick Kyrgios then added fuel to the flames by commenting on a report about the suspension, saying: “Can’t say I’m surprised.”

World No 38 Reilly Opelka then also had his say on the issue, by tweeting: “One of the biggest issues in tennis.. why are guys taking adderall for the first time in their life as adults? Legal doping.”

Although some fans criticised the American for questioning Verdasco’s ADHD diagnoses and use of the drug, Opelka stuck to his guns and then called for more transparency.

“Would be interesting if there was some transparency on TUE’s. I dont like the idea of taking an amphetamine to be on par with competition,” he wrote.

But things took another twist when women’s doubles great and commentator Pam Shriver also questioned the integrity of some players who take ADHD medication.

The American wrote: “Through grape vines of pro tennis, I hear that many players are on ADHD meds to help sharpen focus and concentration in a manner that brings up integrity questions,” she wrote. “Are ADHD meds the meldonium for the brain? Wonder how many current players have asked for a TUE for ADHD recently?”

Journalist Ben Rothenberg revealed, according to a source, at least 50% of the players in the top 100 of the ATP Rankings are on adderall.

“Re: adderall in tennis, one ATP player told me today he estimates ‘half of top 100 is on it…maybe more.’ And not because they have trouble focusing while doing their homework,” he wrote

“Lots of cynicism about the TUE system within the locker room.”

READ MORE: Nick Kyrgios takes swipe at ‘saltiest dude’ after doping ban – ‘Can’t say I’m surprised’