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Madison Brengle sues WTA and ITF over injuries allegedly caused by doping tests

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  • World No83 claims her injuries were caused by anti-doping tests
  • Brengle, 28, says she disclosed rare condition triggered by needles
  • American seeks damages ‘believed to be in excess of $10 million’

Madison Brengle is suing the WTA and ITF over their ‘abusive administration of the anti-doping program’. Photograph: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

American tennis player Madison Brengle filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Women’s Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation seeking damages stemming from their “abusive administration of the anti-doping program” regarding injuries she claims were caused by needle injections from drug tests.

The complaint filed Monday in Manatee County circuit court in Florida alleges the governing bodies repeatedly subjected Brengle to venipuncture anti-doping tests, despite repeated disclosures that she has been diagnosed with a rare medical condition that is triggered by needle injections.

“Tennis authorities ignored evidence of her professionally-diagnosed condition and refused to provide alternative testing or a medical accommodation, instead subjecting Brengle to testing that caused her to withdraw from tournaments and has now resulted in permanent swelling and weakness in her serving arm and hand,” attorney Peter R Ginsberg, who represents Brengle, said in a statement on Monday.

The 28-year-old, who currently ranks 83rd in the world, claims the “bullying behavior” of the defendants have caused “both physical and emotional” harm and seeks damages at a jury trial “in an amount yet to be fully determined but believed to be in excess of $10 million”.

The suit claims Brengle was formally diagnosed in November 2016 with a rare condition known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I, which in the American’s case is induced by needles and “causes extreme pain as well as swelling, numbness and bruising at and in the vicinity of the injection site”, a finding that was corroborated in July 2017 by an independent medical assessment requested by the ITF.

It adds: “Brengle has been so severely harmed by Defendants’ abusive conduct and medically inappropriate testing that she no longer is able to serve a tennis ball with her right arm at or near the same velocity that she has served throughout her ten-year professional career, her hands are swelled and the swelling has at times spread throughout her arms, and her overall game has suffered enormously from the physical and emotional consequences endured.”

While the Tennis Anti-Doping Program states that random venipuncture blood tests are “obligatory”, the ITF promises “[t]he test will have no physical effect on [the player’s] performance, i.e. you will be able to exercise immediately afterwards” and assumes an obligation to make “reasonable modifications to its blood sample collection procedures where necessary to address a medical condition”.

Also listed as a co-defendant in the suit is International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM), the independent Sweden-based agency which handles anti-doping tests for the WTA, along with ITF anti-doping manager Stuart Miller and IDTM doping control officer John Snowball, whom Brengle alleges became “verbally aggressive and abusive” when trying to conduct a post-match test at Wimbledon in 2016.

The complaint alleges the injuries suffered from an anti-doping test ahead of the 2016 US Open forced Brengle’s withdrawal from a first-round match against 16-year-old wild card Kayla Day.

“I am bringing this action in an effort to force those who control the sport I love to understand that players are not commodities and should be treated with respect and dignity,” Brengle said in a statement issued Monday afternoon through her attorney, noting she has never tested positive for any banned substance or missed a single test. “The unbridled authority of officials to subject players to the kind of abuse I suffered cannot be tolerated; players must have a say in matters involving our health and safety.”

Brengle climbed to a career-high ranking of No35 in May 2015 after making her first WTA final at Hobart before reaching the last 16 at that year’s Australian Open.

The Delaware native, who scored a career-best win over No2 Serena Williams last year in Auckland, has earned nearly $2.2m in prize money since turning professional in 2007.

This is a developing story.



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