As of Sunday, they will all be at each other’s throats but, for now, the world’s top tennis players are presenting a united front against drugs cheats.
On the eve of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Andy Murray and Roger Federer were of one voice: tennis is a rich sport and it needs to invest more of its money in its anti-doping programme.
Lance Armstrong was the most tested athlete on the planet and never failed a drugs test, so it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anythingAndy Murray
As the latest drugs scandals involving Russian sport fill the headlines and news bulletins, both Murray and Federer want tennis to be proactive – tennis needs to be seen to be doing more in order to gain the faith of the paying public and, at the same time, dissuade any potential cheat from risking his career with performance enhancing drugs.
“I do think that we as a sport could invest more money in the anti-doping process,” Murray said. “The prize money now is so, so high that there’s no reason for us not to have as perfect a process as possible.
“I do think that the more money that’s invested in it gives you a better chance of catching everyone that’s cheating and also gaining the trust of the public as well, which I think across sport in general is fading.
“It seems like every week something new is coming out and across a variety of different sports and we just hope that tennis can remain as clean as possible.”
But simply throwing in a few more in-competition tests is not the answer, according to Murray, and tennis needs to guard against any complacency: just because tennis has a drugs testing programme does not mean it is a clean sport.
“I know that this year I have been tested more than ever before,” the Scot said. “When I see that I’ve been tested seven-plus times in the year by the ITF, that doesn’t take into consideration the UK anti-doping tests that I get also.
“I do feel like I’ve been tested the most that I have in my career but, to be honest, it’s getting to the stage where that doesn’t even matter anymore.
“With athletes, it’s like ‘I’ve never tested positive’, ‘I’ve been tested more than any other athlete’ and it doesn’t make a difference. Lance Armstrong said that: however many times he’d been tested, the most tested athlete on the planet, and never failed a drugs test so it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything.”
Federer was in total agreement and has spoken before about the frequency of the tests and at the failure of the testers to track him down.
Now, as the public view of professional sport becomes ever-more cynical and the media reveals more tales of cheating and doping, the Swiss wants his sport to take real and decisive action.
“Obviously we need more funding,” Federer said. “Where it comes from, it’s up to somebody else to decide.
“It’s very plain what we should be doing – just more testing across the board.
“If ever you make the quarters of any tournament, in my opinion, then you reach where the points are greater, the money is greater, you just know you will be tested like this. It’s got to be very clear and simple.
“Then if we want to keep tests for longer [freezing samples], I’m all for long time, talking years, not just weeks and months, and that’s how you scare off people too.”
Federer will begin his campaign for the end-of-year finale tomorrow [Sunday] against Tomas Berdych while Murray, the top seed in the “Ilie Nastase” group (Federer is in the “Stan Smith” group headed by Novak Djokovic), will start on Monday against David Ferrer.
The Scot asked for a later start to give himself an extra day to practise on the indoor hard court in the 02 Arena after spending most of the past week training on clay to prepare for the Davis Cup final.
His build-up to the Tour Finals has not been ideal but the world No 2 is playing well and feeling confident and will end this season in second spot if he can win at least two matches this week.
“I think definitely I have a chance to win here,” Murray said. “But I do think that I have to be a bit realistic in the first few days.
“I have just switched surfaces and balls and now I will be going back again and I might not be timing the ball perfectly at the beginning of the week but, as it goes on, hopefully I will start to play better tennis.
“I do feel I have an opportunity here. I think the conditions in Paris [where he reached the final last week] are fairly similar to here so it will be interesting to see how I get on. But I do think I am playing well enough to go far.”