As professional tennis players are returning to action after the year-end break, athletes and fans alike are looking forward to competitive play. But the resumption of the season has been somewhat soured by the provisional suspension of a WTA player, Dayana Yastremska, on a doping offence.
The 20-year-old broke into the upper echelons of the WTA rankings in 2019 and has won three WTA titles. In 2020, Yastremska started the year strongly, reaching the final in Adelaide and enjoying a successful Fed Cup.
However, when play resumed after the pandemic-enforced break, Yastremska struggled, losing in the second round in New York, the third round at the Italian Open and the first round at the French Open. The Ukrainian then ended the year with further first-round losses in Ostrava and Linz.
In a statement released on Twitter today, Ukraine’s Yastremska announced that the ITF had identified metabolites of the drug Mesterolone in her urine. The sample in question was obtained on November 24, 2020 during the off-season, with Yastremska stating that she had a negative test on November 9 2020 which was conducted at the Linz Open, the last event she competed at.
In her statement, Yastremska claimed that she has been given scientific advice that the low levels of the substance detected in the sample are consistent with contamination.
What is Mesterolone?
The metabolites found in the sample are breakdown products of the drug Mesterolone. Mesterolone is an anabolic androgenic steroid. An anabolic androgenic steroid by definition increases features of masculinity including stimulating muscle growth.
In medicine, this type of drug can be used to treat low testosterone levels in men and treat male infertility, although this is not without controversy. In the United States and Canada, Mesterolone is a controlled substance, but it is more freely available in other parts of the world.
Mesterolone has also been used to increase muscle mass and therefore enhance athletic performance, although Mesterolone’s anabolic effects are weak when compared with other steroid substances. Nonetheless, Mesterolone is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of anabolic substances that are prohibited at all times.
For many athletes, including Yastremska, who test positive for anabolic steroids or other prohibited substances, the first defence is accidental consumption by contamination. In the early days of drugs testing, many athletes were caught off guard by having used supplements that contained unidentified banned substances.
However, cases of contamination have become less common, if far from unheard of, with clear lists provided to athletes of the supplements that are approved and safe to use. Yastremska has already announced her intention to appeal the suspension, although she will likely miss the Australian Open even if successful with no possible dates for a hearing provided yet.
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