Integrity agency issues ADHD drug warning to tour professionals

Fernando Verdasco drinking water

The International Tennis Integrity Agency has issued a warning to players regarding the use of prescribed ADHD drugs.

The ITIA warned players that they must follow the proper procedure for acquiring a Therapeutic Use Exemption before they begin taking medication if they are active on the tour.

The ethics group issued the warning after handing a short ban to Spanish player Fernando Verdasco following a positive doping test by the player.

While he was able to prove that he had legally acquired a prescription for the medication, he did not apply for a TUE before taking the medication and as a result has been sanctioned.

Previous leaks of WADA Therapeutic Use Exemption lists have sparked massive concern with the number of top athletes using ADHD medication a cause for some alarm.

The use of these drugs has prompted a number of players to cry foul, claiming that this is little more than legal cheating.

“One of the biggest problems in tennis. Why do boys take Adderall for the first time in their adult lives? Legal doping,” Opelka tweeted in December.

The ITIA has sent letters to all active ATP and WTA Tour professionals advising them to follow the proper procedure regarding the application for exemptions.

“Players should note that there is a high threshold for granting applications for the use of ADHD medication. This means that it cannot be assumed that a TUE will be granted. However, those who have received a genuine and thorough clinical diagnosis of ADHD…may be granted a TUE. Most TUEs have an expiry date and it is a player’s sole responsibility to ensure that their TUE is renewed in advance of the expiry date”

Former top professional Pam Shriver questioned whether the use of ADHD drugs is something that the powers the be should look to crack down on, given the advantage that a player could gain using the medication.

She tweeted: “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. Are ADHD meds the meldonium for the brain? Wonder how many current players have asked for a TUE for ADHD recently?”

Shriver’s tweet prompted Tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg to reveal that as many as half of the top 100 could be using ADHD medication.

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