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Pro Tennis Player Claims Doping Tests Caused Extreme Pain, Panic Attacks, Ruined Her Serve

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

American tennis player Madison Brengle had her first antidoping test in 2009, before Wimbledon. "I hit the floor," Brengle said, regarding the experience. "I passed out from the pain." As it turns out, the phlebotomist performing the test missed her vein on the first two tries, and her vein collapsed on the third try, causing her to lose consciousness.

It also turns out Brengle suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, "a rare medically-diagnosed physical condition which results in both temporary and permanent physical injury." Brengle is suing the WTA, along with the company tasked with administering doping controls for the International Tennis Federation and two employees who subjected Brengle to blood draws.

Blood, Fret, and Fears

Brengle says she didn't learn about her condition until she had her first intravenous sedation before having her wisdom teeth removed when she was 17. "It felt like my arm was getting cut off," she said. "It's lightning, it's acid pouring into your skin."

Brengle was formally diagnosed with CRPS in 2016, but not before three more forced blood draws at the 2016 Australian Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open tournaments. Each caused physical and emotional trauma, her lawsuit claims, with the third causing her to withdraw from her first match in the tournament. A tournament physician confirmed Brengle had "pronounced bruising at the access site" and also concluded that Brengle's condition "could be potentially devastating to her tennis career and quality of life."

Justice Served?

In fact, the testing appears to have had a permanent, detrimental effect on her playing ability. As the New York Times reports:

Brengle's serve was never a primary weapon for her, but it has gotten much weaker of late. According to Tennis Abstract, from the start of the 2015 until the 2016 U.S. Open, Brengle hit at least one ace in 48 of 72 tracked matches (66.6 percent) and won less than 50 percent of first-serve points only 10 times (13.9 percent). Since then, she has hit an ace in just 8 of 61 tracked matches (13.1 percent) and has won less than 50 percent of first serves 17 times (27.9 percent). Her serve speed has also dipped. She has kept her ranking inside the top 100, but she has never re-entered the top 50, where she was ranked before the 2016 U.S. Open.

Brengle is suing for at least $10 million in damages for battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and is seeking an injunction against further intravenous blood tests. "She can give blood," her attorney Peter Ginsburgh told the AP. "She just can't tolerate the needle in her vein. She could give blood via a pin prick in her finger. She will submit to a urinalysis. She's not trying to avoid being tested. She's trying to avoid having a needle being stuck in her veins."

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