- Varvara Lepchenko was born in Uzbekistan grew up in the capital of Tashkent.
- Her father Peter Lepchenko brought her to the US and applied for political asylum when she was only 15.
- She was recently suspended for four years for violating anti-doping rules
Varvara Lepchenko is lost, knowing not what to do after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) slapped her with a four-year doping suspension recently.
Varvara fell on the ugly side of history after testing positive for a banned substance in 2021 during a match. All her dreams came tumbling down and eroded a beautiful story of the ex-Soviet nation of Uzbekistan-born tennis player.
The former world No.20 had a full life in tennis – one she always spoke about with a lot of gusto.
WHO IS VARVARA LEPCHENKO?
At the age of seven, Lepchenko began playing tennis under the tutelage of her father Peter, a native of Uzbekistan. She grew up in the capital of Tashkent.
She made her professional debut in 2001 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 244 on January 5, 2004.
Then, she was just another ambitious girl with big dreams to play tennis at the highest WTA level. And it was not possible with her living back in Eastern Europe.
She needed more exposure meaning, she flirted with the idea of getting American citizenship.
HOW DID VARVARA LEPCHENKO END UP AN AMERICAN CITIZEN?
Pay in Uzbekistan in the 1990s was roughly $20 per month, and there was a lot of social unrest. In Tashkent, the capital city where Lepchenko grew up in life wasn’t rosy at all.
Varvara Lepchenko’s dreams of a professional tennis career seemed like a long, long way off when she was a child.
It wasn’t easy growing up in the former Soviet republic, even though both her mother and father were educated in the sciences.
It was difficult for Lepchenko to see a way forward for her career in tennis without the kind of facilities and training programs that other young players in nations like the United States obtained.
But, life had its plans for the Lepchenko’s. Her father Peter Lepchenko brought his daughter and her sister to Florida in 2001 to participate in a junior tennis event and they never returned.
She was only 15 years old at the time. Father and daughters were able to stay in America while their request for citizenship was being processed because they had asked for political asylum.
However, Larisa Lepchenko – their mother – remained in Uzbekistan and was unable to leave for four years. She spoke on phone to her daughters who kept her up-to-date on all the happenings in life in Florida.
A young Lepchenko did not know what his father’s plan was as they left Uzbekistan for the US. She would only learn about it later in life and understands it was a great sacrifice her father made to better his family’s future.
“I missed a lot of those important years when your mum has to be around to teach you things. I had to learn on my own. Now we’re trying to catch up on all those years. I’m sure it was harder for her than for me. She cried a lot over the phone. She was there by herself. At least we had each other – my sister, my father,” she tells the Independent.
The transition to life in Florida was not easy in the beginning. Her father offered private tennis coaching lessons to earn money but it was never enough. Varvara always recalls the many nights she slept on a camper van because they couldn’t raise accommodation money.
They frequently had to rely on the charity of strangers they encountered for financial assistance.
When Varvara was old enough to compete in competitions, her parents couldn’t always afford to take her out of their camper van for the night.
She thanks her father for inspiring her to take up tennis. She had thought of going to college but her father was adamant that she sticks to tennis which opened doors in life.
The Lepchenkos’ lives changed when Varvara competed in a tournament in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and they met Shari Butz, a woman who arranged lodging for the competitors.
As a result of her friendship with the Lepchenkos, she opened her home to them. They still live in Allentown, where Lepchenko’s parents are now the proud owners of their new home.
In 2007, Lepchenko made his international debut for the United States. Some international competitions were out of bounds due to Green Card requirements, but she improved her game by competing against the greatest.
More than a decade after fleeing Uzbekistan, Varvara became an American citizen in September 2011. Life got rosier as her rankings improved greatly.
She got to the Top 20 players.
WHY WAS VARVARA LEPCHENKO SUSPENDED FOR DOPING?
Last August’s urine sample from Varvara Lepchenko revealed that the American had used a restricted substance, Adrafinil.
In the year 2022, the former world No. 19 has not participated in any tournaments. It was her second conviction thereby breaching anti-doping rules for tennis players.
As she approaches the age of 36, Varvara’s career is likely over. She was given a four-year suspension given this was her second Anti-Doping Rule Violation.