British Tennis Player Tara Moore Bounces Back In A Small Indiana Town

She contested a drug suspension while living in the sport’s unlikely hinterlands of exurban Indiana. In the heat of her battle, Tara Moore found a new life to fight for.
Photography by Samuel Greenhill/Indianapolis Monthly

Tara Moore likes the tennis courts at Fortville’s Memorial Park for her private lessons. One of the two is usually available in this low-key spot where the concrete isn’t cracked and the net doesn’t sag. It lacks some basic creature comforts, like benches, a water fountain, and bathrooms. But there’s peace.

Standing on the court, with her shiny long hair pulled back into a ponytail, Moore feeds balls softly to an adult recreational player and energetically offers positive reinforcement—literal pro tips: “When you hit the forehand volley, give your hand a little bit of squeeze,” she calls out, the trace of a British accent detectable.

The woman groans with faint trepidation at nearly every ball that comes her way, then returns most of them over the net easily. It’s a couple levels above dinking, and it seems thoroughly boring. A boring advanced-beginner lesson on a boring community court in a boring Hancock County town.

Which isn’t to say Moore is bored.

After spending more than 10 years hopping around the world to play professional tennis—an expensive grind of a sport, especially when prosperity and fame dangled just beyond her reach—“boring” now means stability, peace, and a Tesla. At 31 years old, Moore finally values those things. “I’m enjoying the mundane side of being a normal person. Going to work, cooking dinner for myself, playing with my dog, getting ready for bed—it’s nice. I just got a Costco membership,” she says. “That’s my life.”

And yet, this wasn’t supposed to be Tara Moore’s life. She was never supposed to be in Indiana. As a 10-year-old phenom growing up in Hong Kong, she was recruited by famed tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, who had already honed Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova into champions. Moore attended his tennis academy in Florida and trained privately with him until she was 17. Then she turned pro and built a decent career, if not a distinguished one. It was enough to earn a living and play under her father’s British flag in posh locales such as Montreal, Morocco, and Melbourne. Even Wimbledon, where she took a 6-1 set off two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round.

Her name might ring a bell to hardcore tennis fans, but apparently not her face, as witnessed by the many avid players who cluelessly pass by her at Pendleton’s Community Sports & Wellness center, where she works as a teaching pro, without the faintest clue that she has beaten some of the top players in the sport. Players like Elise Mertens of Belgium, currently the No. 2 doubles player in the world, and Donna Vekić of Croatia, once ranked No. 19 in the world in singles.

Anyone familiar with inside-tennis, however, knows Moore well, partly due to her association with Bollettieri and her connections in tennis-rich Britain. The British Lawn Tennis Association has supported Moore at times, and Judy Murray, the mother of British tennis star Andy Murray, chose Moore to play for the U.K.’s national team when she was captain. In 2020, she was elected to the players’ council of the International Tennis Federation to represent professionals outside of the Top 100, like her. It was a good fit, as Moore had earned a reputation over the years for being outspoken about player rights, once tweeting, “It’s good to ruffle some feathers sometimes and hopefully we can garner some change.”

She is also known for pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history. In 2019, at a small tournament in England, she lost every game of her first match as her opponent built the biggest lead possible in tennis—6-0, 5-0, match point. Moore famously managed to turn it around and win. But five years later, that epic comeback pales in comparison to the one she’s facing now, after her career fell off a cliff and she landed in Indiana, a tennis exile.


That terrible fall began in Bogotá, Colombia, when Moore and her doubles partner, who requested anonymity for this story, arrived to play a tournament in April 2022. It was held at the Country Club of Bogotá, a venerable facility with red-clay courts, a postcard mountain backdrop, and several nice restaurants—at which Moore dined alongside fellow tournament players four times. On day six, she wasn’t surprised to be selected for a random drug test after her match. “They tested me every other time I played there,” she says. “I expected it.”

Moore and her partner went on to make the final. It was one of their best results. They were clicking as a team and ranked high enough to enter May’s French Open, one of the sport’s four major events. Like Wimbledon, it carries the most cachet, perks, ranking points, and prize money.

Flying to Paris, Moore’s hopes were higher than the plane’s 30,000 feet. And rightfully so. On Court 4 at the French Open, she and her partner beat Belinda Bencic and Anhelina Kalinina. “Good players,” Moore says. Excellent players, actually—in singles, Bencic was the reigning Olympic gold medalist, and Kalinina was on her way to a Top 25 ranking. Team Moore won a close match and $13,000 to split. The week before, they had won $1,175.

Between the congratulatory texts, Moore saw an email from the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which administers the sport’s drug tests, including the one she took six weeks before in Bogotá. That was normal—the ITIA sent a lot of updates about banned substances, Moore says. She would check it later, after she had taken some time to recover and prepare for the next match, worth an additional $9,000 and a haul of ranking points.

The following night, a tournament supervisor called to deliver disastrous news: Moore had failed the drug test in Colombia. She was suspended immediately. She was out of the French Open. And she was alone—or so she thought.


Community Sports & Wellness president Bryant Beard, a Pendleton tennis coach who was the center’s tennis director in 2022, happened to be vacationing in France with his family that May. He went to the French Open to watch Moore and her partner, whom he knows. The partner’s parents had relocated to Indianapolis when she was young, and she and Moore occasionally trained at CSW, sometimes for extended periods. “I used to joke that if you need a place to settle down and figure out the next steps, we’re here for you,” Beard says. At the time, Moore had every reason to believe her next steps would be on bigger courts. She was the top-ranked doubles player in Britain, after all, and she was winning a lot of matches.

Between the congratulatory texts, Moore saw an email from the International Tennis Integrity Agency, which administers the sport’s drug tests, including the one she took six weeks before in Bogotá.

But overnight, she found herself back in London in a state of utter disbelief. She never could have expected this to happen to her. Neither could Judy Murray of the U.K.’s national team, one of the most respected leaders in tennis. “I have spent enough time with her to know she is an honest and fair competitor,” Murray says.

Moore, who had never failed a drug test before, contacted the Women’s Tennis Association, the governing body of the women’s pro tour, which only forwarded the same email from the ITIA stating that Moore had tested positive for the banned performance enhancers boldenone and nandrolone. As a result, she was suspended for four years. Four years. The news sent Moore into a spiral of confusion, unsure what her next moves should be or how she would get herself out of this situation. “There’s no manual. There’s no help,” she says.

The veteran player was suddenly thrown out of the arena, forbidden to be on court with any WTA player (including her own doubles partner) or any WTA-accredited coach. She couldn’t attend a tournament, show up to an official training site, or train any junior player who might one day want to go pro. “You go from main draw French Open, thinking you’re going to play second round, and then you don’t even want to play tennis at all,” Moore says.

She knew one thing: She needed a job to pay her lawyers. To appeal the drug test, she opted for high-priced representation, which she estimates will cost her $250,000 when all is said and done. “I could have paid a lot less, but I knew I’m innocent,” she says. “Lawyers are one of those things that you get what you pay for. I didn’t want bog standard.” Neither did she want to stay in London, where her high profile made it hard to shake the accusation.

Somewhere in this fresh chaos, Moore remembered Beard’s open invitation for a CSW job in little Pendleton, Indiana. After considering coaching options in Michigan and Florida, she chose CSW because it made the most practical sense. “It was nice to have a lot of hours guaranteed,” she says. “I wanted to build on my coaching abilities, and I was given the opportunity to start over without anyone really knowing who I was.” She moved in September 2022 and bought a house in Fishers, just 15 miles from Pendleton’s brand-new facility outfitted with top-notch extras such as cameras for streaming or recording matches on each court and advanced analytics on two courts. Even in Chicago, it was rare to find a public tennis facility as nice as this one.

Moore settled into coaching adult clinics and high school players. Says Beard, “What she loved about [coach] Nick Bollettieri was when he would touch you on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, you can do this, kid.’ That man made you believe you could run through walls.” Moore’s experience in the limelight helped Beard, who coaches at Pendleton Heights High School, understand the pressure kids play under these days. “They’re genuinely afraid of competition. The ramifications are always so severe because of social media and because the level of embarrassment is so high. We don’t spend enough time realizing the impact,” he says. “Tara helped me see that it’s a mentally tough sport. How do we help these kids and make it so organically fun that the competition comes afterward?”

And yet no one could understand what Moore was going through at that time. “A wrongful suspension for an athlete is devastating, and the stigma associated with a positive test is lifelong,” says Howard Jacobs, a lawyer in California who has handled many high-profile Olympic doping cases. Indeed, the process has taken a toll on Moore. Once happy-go-lucky, she says, “I’m a lot more fearful of a lot of things than I used to be.” Like eating red meat. She hasn’t touched it in two years.

Following her suspension, Moore often woke up in the middle of the night, wracked with confusion. She coped by turning over rocks, researching boldenone, a strength hormone, and nandrolone, a recovery substance similar to testosterone. It didn’t take long for her to land on contaminated meat of cows injected with steroids as a possible culprit. She thought about all the meat she had ingested at the club restaurants and other spots around Bogotá shortly before being tested. Could that have triggered a positive result on her drug test? It has been known to happen—the Colombian Olympic Committee has even gone so far as to warn its athletes about the possibility of contaminated meat in the country.

In recent years, athletes as diverse as Columbian tennis star Robert Farah; 90-year-old Bristol, Indiana, cyclist Carl Grove; and Olympic runner Shelby Houlihan said their positive steroid tests were caused by tainted meat. While many are skeptical about their claims, Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, says they’re worth considering. Advances in testing technology mean previously indiscernible levels of some drugs are now detected. “Labs can see so much farther down that the likelihood of capturing something increases,” he says.

When Farah tested positive for boldenone in 2020, he fought his suspension, won the case, and was reinstated to play within a month. But he was the No. 1–ranked player in the world in doubles at the time. Moore would wait much longer for a hearing. As her doubles partner moved on and found new teammates, Moore’s ranking points gradually disappeared by May 2023.

Meanwhile, Moore’s certainty in her innocence propelled a dogged determination to fight for justice. She filled the void of uncertainty by digging deep into the science of cattle farming in Colombia. She contacted Colombian farmers in broken Spanish, and some were helpful and sympathetic, explaining what the steroids do and how much time could elapse between an injection and meat consumption. “You expect your lawyers to do a lot of the research. But there’s no harm in reaching out to ranchers on Instagram. Every little thing, you don’t know if it’s going to count or be a big deal,” she says.

Finally, she received an appeal hearing with an independent panel in December 2023. She attended virtually, starting at 4 a.m., for a few days. “You don’t understand a lot of things, and you’re just sat there, praying, hoping the truth will come out, and you’ll be set free,” she says.

Moore’s legal team had to show that meat contamination was a plausible cause for the positive drug test. They shared evidence that all the country club restaurant’s meat comes from Colombia, that both drugs are authorized for cattle breeding in the country, and that the steroids can enter the food chain a short time after injection. Also, three of the 21 players tested at the Bogotá tournament tested positive for boldenone, substantially higher than the average test results worldwide.

The ITIA countered that contaminated meat wouldn’t produce the amount of the drugs in Moore’s test sample. Also, because a minority of Colombia farmers use those steroids, it’s unlikely the players ate contaminated meat. But if they did, they should have known that tainted meat was a risk in Colombia and had acted negligently by eating it. In essence, the players were guilty either way.

In just a few days, the panel ruled for Moore, saying meat contamination was a plausible source of both steroids in her system. The panel was troubled by the statistical anomaly of three players testing positive for boldenone at the tournament. The report noted another disturbing suggestion: the possibility that a steroid implant placed in a cow’s ear had wound up in the beef mince of a Bolognese sauce Moore had ordered.

She contacted Colombian farmers in broken Spanish, and some were helpful and sympathetic, explaining what the steroids do and how much time could elapse between an injection and meat consumption.

The panel chastised the ITIA for trying to have it both ways with its argument. “It does not lie very comfortably with the ITIA to argue so forcefully, on the one hand, that meat contamination is a very unlikely explanation … whilst, on the other hand, arguing that the Players should have known that there was a risk of that very contamination which the ITIA has argued very probably did not happen.”

Moore was immediately reinstated to compete—if she could figure out how to do so without a ranking.


Photo courtesy Associated Press

Moore has been in such a predicament before. Five years ago, her ranking plummeted to No. 479, and she thought that was the end for her. Being unranked is a lot worse. “If you’d asked me to do this before [the suspension] happened to me, I would have retired,” she says. “I would have thought, I’m not going to start from zero again.”

By the time she was exonerated, Moore felt differently. “Toward the end of my career, it was so monotonous. Nothing surprised me. Now I get this second chance and look at it from a different perspective,” she says. So after spending some time training with friends in Florida, Moore packed her rackets again in April and flew to Italy to play her first professional match in almost two years, partnering with a college player. They won their first match and lost the next to the eventual winner. The flight alone was $1,400, and Moore’s prize money was $98. She returned to Indy to assess where to go from there.

Ranking-wise, the only place to go is up. But as the legendary sports journalist Mary Carillo says, “There are comebacks, and then there are come-all-the-way-backs.” Moore doesn’t know if she can win her way into the Top 100 in doubles again—or even be competitive in singles. Right now, she feels motivated to try while her body is still cooperating.

Moore caught a break in mid-May when the WTA changed its policy for players cleared of a failed drug test, which might have been spurred by the high-profile case of Simona Halep, a former world No. 1 who was banned from competition in 2022 and had her sentence cut in half earlier this year. Moore can use her old doubles ranking of No. 88 to enter 12 tournaments, but she didn’t get her ranking points back. She’s still starting from zero.

Regardless of the restored ranking, Moore lost two years of competition, earnings, and momentum. She expects the $15,000 she raised on GoFundMe after winning her appeal to cover just two months of traveling and training expenses, and she is still paying lawyers because the ITIA might fight the judgment in Moore’s favor at an undetermined time in the future. She has no idea if she is always teetering on the edge of another cliff. “It’s still a stress every single day,” she says. She continues to research boldenone and nandrolone. “I have hundreds of tabs opened on my phone now.”

Moore hopes to receive ranking-unrestricted invitations called wild cards to enter tournaments in England, including Wimbledon, during the grass-court season leading up to the famous championships. Grass is her best surface, and she might have enough goodwill left in Britain to garner those favors. Plenty of tennis heavyweights are in Moore’s corner, including top coaches like Sven Groeneveld, who coached Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova among many other Top 10 players, as well as Patrick Mouratoglou, who rose to fame as Serena Williams’ coach in the last stage of her career. One of Moore’s closest allies is her former coach John Morris, who’s now a top agent representing Top 10 players Andrey Rublev and Daria Kasatkina.

But A-list friends can’t offset the difficulties of competing in the basement of pro tennis. “People don’t understand how uncertain tennis is,” she says. “There are so many sports that don’t compare because you are on a team. If you have a bad day, you can be subbed out. They plan all the travel for you. They plan when you practice, when you go to fitness, your nutrition, your budget for that year. You just turn up and play your sport. The majority of tennis players are just by themselves. I plan everything. What if I lose my luggage with my rackets inside of them? How do I go to the next tournament where there will be a different surface and different tennis balls? Will it be good on my body? Can I switch over the next week?” Being unranked means every match and every point counts. “Everywhere I go, I have to make the right decisions,” she says.

The small tournaments she is relegated to pose more challenges. The tournament she attended in Italy was held at a resort. Rain put them a couple days behind schedule, and the hotel then gave its guests priority for the courts over the tournament participants. “I’m not in the Ritz-Carlton sipping champagne. I’m getting bumped off practice courts by vacationers who don’t know how to hold a tennis racket,” Moore says.

Given the obstacles, even her biggest fans aren’t holding their breath for Moore to bounce back. “It will be very tough for her now,” Murray says. “To miss over two years at this stage of her career is incredibly difficult to come back from physically and emotionally. She has lost time, her ranking, her career, her finances, and her reputation.”

But for Moore, coming all the way back isn’t the only way to win. Proving she’s a clean athlete is a victory. Giving herself the best chance with the cards she has been dealt is another. Protecting the life she has built in Indianapolis, too. But she’s torn: Is pursuing her second chance worth giving up the stability and a job she has come to appreciate?

“I don’t want my life to go away,” she says. “I’ve earned my house, my car, all of this stuff. The challenge is finding the right balance—because the things I have earned make me happy.”