Tennis players warned about use of drugs to treat ADHD

Tennis players receive official warning over their use of drugs to treat ADHD amid fears some could be using them to improve their concentration… after an increased number of applications for the medication over the last two years raised concerns

  • Fernando Verdasco recently received a ban for failing to renew a TUE
  • Players have now been warned about their use of drugs to treat ADHD
  • There are fears some players may be using medication to improve their focus

Tennis players have been officially warned about the use of drugs to combat ADHD amid fears that some may use it to gain a competitive edge, rather than to combat a genuine condition.

In an unusual step, the agency charged with keeping the sport clean has sent a notice to all male and female professionals reminding them of their responsibilities when it comes to treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The letter, seen by Sportsmail, underscores the need for high level evidence to back up claims that the medication – which potentially aids powers of concentration – is properly needed in support of any application for a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption).

It comes two months after former top ten player Fernando Verdasco received a suspension for failing to renew a TUE that had been granted but then allowed to expire.

Rumours have circulated in the locker room about who may be on the medication, and whether its use is always legitimate. Heightened numbers of applications over the last two years have raised concerns at the International Tennis Integrity Agency, the body which is proving more rigorous and pro-active than its various predecessors.

Fernando Verdasco recently received a ban for failing to renew a Therapeutic Use Exemption

Tennis players have now been warned about their use of drugs to treat ADHD

Tennis players have now been warned about their use of drugs to treat ADHD

The letter states: ‘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.

‘There is no guarantee that a TUE application will be granted so players must be aware that retroactive applications that are denied may lead to the player being charged with an anti-doping rule violation. 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.

‘I know you will all recognise the importance of ensuring we strike the right balance between ensuring that genuine medical conditions can be managed and preventing the abuse of the TUE system.’

Globally ADHD is estimated to affect between four and five per cent of adults with a greater prevalence among men than women. Brand names for medication associated with the condition include Ritalin and Adderall.

The improvements that they can bring about in focus and concentration over prolonged periods could make them especially helpful in sports like tennis and golf.

In November former world number seven Verdasco, now 39, was given a reduced two-month ban after a process which began when he tested positive for methylphenidate at a tournament in Brazil last February.

It was accepted that he had been prescribed the drug by his doctor to treat longstanding ADHD, and that he had forgotten to renew the TUE which permitted the exemption.

A spokesperson for the ITIA confirmed that the letter had been sent out to all members of the WTA and ATP Tours, but had nothing further to add.