New drug testing scheme to be introduced to tennis

Andy Murray has pushed for better testing. Picture: Reuters
Andy Murray has pushed for better testing. Picture: Reuters
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BRITISH number one Heather Watson crashed out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells after a straight-sets defeat to Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round.

Watson recently rose to a career-high 39th in the world but had no answer against a player 14 places lower in the WTA rankings as she slipped to a 6-2, 6-4 loss in one hour 43 minutes.

The 20-year-old from Guernsey proved a match for Begu throughout but failed to get the job done on the big points.

Watson forced six break points in the match but failed to convert any, while from the same number of opportunities, Begu broke twice in the first set and once in the second to win.

Meanwhile, the demands of Andy Murray and Roger Federer for better drug testing in tennis have been answered, with confirmation the sport will introduce an Athlete Biological Passport Programme. The International Tennis Federation, which manages and administers the anti-doping programme, made the announcement yesterday following a meeting of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme Working Group on Tuesday.

The ITF, ATP, WTA and grand slam tournaments, which make up the group, unanimously supported the introduction of the passport, which is used to detect variances in biological make-up that might indicate doping and which has been successfully used in cycling. The tennis authorities have been under pressure from their own players, with Federer and Murray the most vocal, to increase the number of blood tests carried out.

Speaking about the issue last month, Murray said: “A lot’s been learned from what happened with the Lance Armstrong situation. You don’t want that happening ever again. I don’t want that happening for my sport.

“I’ve been asked a lot if tennis is clean. I don’t know how you judge whether your sport is clean. If one in 100 players is doping, then that isn’t a clean sport. We need to ensure that everyone competing at the highest level and below is clean. I think that comes with biological passports and more blood testing.”

The testing figures for 2012 were released yesterday and show an increase in blood testing, but the numbers remain low. In 2011 there were 131 blood tests, while last year that rose to 187 with 63 out of competition. Overall, there were 2,185 urine and blood tests, both in and out of competition. The introduction of the passport will be coupled with an increase in the number of blood tests, while the working group also recommended an overall increase in testing, especially out of competition.

ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said: “The Athlete Biological Passport is an important step in the evolution of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.”