Busted Racquet - Tennis

Novak Djokovic is looking to become a breakout star in America during the 2011 U.S. Open. Besides winning the tournament, what better way to say "I'm an American celebrity" than to be the subject of a crazy story about how he uses a space-age fitness pod to boost circulation and blood cells?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Djokovic has been spending time in a"rare, $75,000, egg-shaped, bobsled-sized pressure chamber" since last year's U.S. Open. The pod, made by a company called CVAC, is said to help simulate vigorous exercise and improves athletic performance by increasing circulation, adding oxygen-rich blood cells to the body and expelling lactic acid.

The CVAC Pod is fancier than the hyperbaric chambers you've probably heard about; it stimulates high altitude training to compress muscles using a vacuum pump and computer-controlled valves. Unlike other contraptions, CVAC say the conditions in its pod can be adapted for various training purposes.

In terms of helping the body absorb oxygen, the pod is claimed to be twice as effective as blood doping. Better yet, it's infinitely more legal. The World Anti-Doping Agency has not banned these types of oxygen tents and pods even though it says they violate "the spirit of sport." Further testing is being done to determine whether devices like CVAC's pod will continue to be approved for use.

The results since then speak for themselves. Djokovic is 81-8 with two Grand Slam titles since he is said to have first tried the pod. He hadn't spoken about it publicly until an event last week.

The Journal talked to some people who have tried the pod. They said their ears popped like they were sitting in an airplane. The aftereffects were nothing special, one said, though he claimed that some users get hooked on the process like a drug.

During the U.S. Open, Djokovic stays at the New Jersey estate of a former tennis pro who now runs a training academy. Gordon Uehling III has one of the pods at his house and the world No. 1 uses it during the tournament.

Some claim it's not a miracle cure-all and instead believe it's beneficial only if the players believe it to be so. NHL general manager Lou Lamoriella told the WSJ, "If you believe in something it's going to be a lot more powerful."

The pod is catching on with other celebrities, too, though CVAC keeps a tight lid on its client list. That's probably for good reason. The one celebrity user mentioned in the Journal article was Axl Rose and if you've seen a picture of the Guns N' Roses singer recently, you'll know why CVAC doesn't want his name attached to its miracle exercise pod.

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