The International Tennis Federation has confirmed that, as reported here before, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova has tested positive for the use of a banned substance. While competing in Luxembourg last October, she was found to have taken sibutramine, a synthetic stimulant also used as an appetite suppressant. Zahlavova Strycova claimed that she ingested the sibutramine by taking a weight loss supplement called Acai Berry Thin, which she took without any intention to enhance her performance.
Players are subject to a two-year suspension from the sport for an initial doping offense, but because the ITF accepted Zahlavova Strycova’s contention that her use of the banned substance was unintentional, it suspended her for only six months. The suspension extends from October 16, 2012—the date the positive sample was taken—to April 15, 2013. Zahlavova Strycova forfeits her prize money and ranking points from the Luxembourg tournament and the $75k ITF event in Ismaning, Germany the following week.
Sibutramine is not included in the ingredients listed on Acai Berry Thin’s website. However, the US FDA and other national health agencies have warned consumers that a large number of similar, supposedly natural weight-loss supplements contain sibutramine or other prescription pharmaceuticals as unlabeled ingredients. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency rules, to which the ITF subscribes, athletes are responsible for ensuring that products they use do not contain banned substances. The distributor for Acai Berry Thin, which goes by the conspicuously anonymous name “MyPartners LLC” and misspells its own address on its website, hardly inspires confidence.
In my next post, I’ll have much more to say about the problem of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, why the governing bodies of tennis need to get more serious about enforcing anti-doping rules, and what the next steps should be in doing so.
WTA Injury Updates
Dominika Cibulkova retired with severe leg cramping from her Saturday singles rubber in Fed Cup. At the time, she was leading Vesna Dolonc, 6-4 5-4. Nevertheless, Slovakia defeated Serbia, with Daniela Hantuchova winning both of her singles rubbers and Jana Cepelova defeating Bojana Jovanovski. Cibulkova subsequently withdrew from Doha.
Ana Ivanovic withdrew from Fed Cup, citing a shoulder injury she sustained at the Australian Open.
Maria Kirilenko retired from her first-round match in Doha with a shoulder injury after losing the first three games to Ekaterina Bychkova.
Yanina Wickmayer retired from her first-round match in Doha while trailing Roberta Vinci, 2-6 1-2, citing a lower back injury.
Ekaterina Makarova retired from her second-round match in Doha due to dizziness after losing the first set to Petra Kvitova.
Varvara Lepchenko retired from her first-round match in Doha while trailing Klara Zakopalova, 6-7(8) 0-3, citing an upper respiratory illness.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova withdrew from Fed Cup with a shoulder injury.
Simona Halep retired from her second-round match in Doha with a lower back injury, after losing the first set to Ivanovic.
Kirsten Flipkens was unable to play on the second day of Fed Cup due to a leg injury.
Jovanovski withdrew from Doha with a back injury.
Mikhail Youzhny retired from his first-round match in Rotterdam while trailing Thiemo de Bakker, 6-3 6-7(2) 1-4, citing a hip injury.
Michael Llodra withdrew from Rotterdam due to illness.
Benoit Paire retired due to illness from his first-round match in Rotterdam. He was trailing Marcos Baghdatis, 0-6 7-6(3) 0-4.
After his amazing performance beating Rafael Nadal for the Viña del Mar title, Horacio Zeballos retired from his first-round match against Paul Capdeville in São Paulo, citing general fatigue. He was trailing 7-6(5) 0-6 0-3.
Lukas Lacko retired after two games from his first-round match against Flavio Cipolla in Zagreb due to a lower back injury.