Andy Murray wants stronger scrutiny by drugs bodies to keep tennis clean
ANDY Murray last night launched a strong attack on drug cheats and called on anti-doping authorities to be even more vigilant to protect the integrity of tennis as the Lance Armstrong scandal continues to destroy the reputation of international cycling.
The US Open champion was speaking at the BNP Paribas Masters in Bercy – he plays his opening match tomorrow – and while he believes that tennis is basically a clean sport with around 60 positive tests since 1990, he thinks those who are caught should be given longer bans and that the authorities should conduct more out of competition tests.
The International Tennis Federation is responsible for most of the testing in tennis, although national associations such as UK Anti-Doping will also conduct their own tests under the WADA code. In 2011, the ITF carried out just 21 out of competition blood tests and the Scot clearly thinks that that is nowhere near enough. Even though he was called upon by the drug testers at his hotel on Saturday night for a blood test, he thinks that such random testing is the only way to catch the cheats.
“I think that’s good,” he said. “We’re not used to doing that many blood tests in tennis, I’ve probably had four or five blood tests this year, but a lot more urine tests, so it’s something that’s obviously necessary.
“It was good to see that we’ve started doing the out of competition blood testing.
“The thing with tennis is that there’s a lot of testing at the top end, but lower down there isn’t anywhere near as much as near at the top end.
“I’ve looked a few times at the list of how many times guys have been tested. I think only the top 50 singles players and maybe only the top 10 doubles players have to do it, so it doesn’t necessarily always make sense just to test the guys that are at the top – you need to do it throughout the whole sport and I think that would help as well.
“We get tested throughout the whole year, from a lot of the tournaments. I think the out of competition stuff could probably get better. In December, when people are training, I think it would be good to try and do more around that time.”
But it is what happens to the drug cheats that infuriates Murray. Many times in the past, players have tested positive, been banned and then have had their sentence reduced on appeal.
In 2005, Mariano Puerta should have been given a lifetime ban for a second doping offence in two years after testing positive following the French Open final. Instead, he was, initially, given an eight-year ban. On appeal, that sanction was reduced to two years and in 2007, he returned to the tour. In 2009, Wayne Odesnik was caught by Melbourne customs officers trying to take human growth hormone into Australia.
Once the criminal proceedings had concluded, Odesnik was then sanctioned by the tennis authorities and given a two-year ban. But that sentence was back-dated and the halved when he provided “substantial assistance” to the authorities. In the end, he was only prevented from playing for seven months.
“The thing that bugged me with it, was when you have the whole Wayne Odesnik thing, is that if people fail the tests, don’t let them off,” Murray said. “Don’t say, OK, it’s going to go from two years to six months, because that’s not how it should work. If we’re going through this process, which yeah, can at times be a bit frustrating even if it is necessary, when somebody fails a test, don’t just let them back into the sport 18 months earlier than they should be.
“That’s what was frustrating for me about it because we’re going through all of this and they’re being too lenient with guys that are travelling with human growth hormone to other countries. It’s ridiculous.”
Murray feels comfortable with tennis’s public image, but he knows every drugs story tarnishes all professional sport so tennis has to work harder than ever to protect its reputation.
“You never know in any sport what’s really going on,” he said. “The one thing I would say with a sport like cycling, is it’s purely physical. There’s very little, I think, skill involved in the Tour de France, it’s pretty much just physical whereas with tennis, you can’t teach the skill by taking a drug.
“I don’t think people look at tennis players in the same way that they would at the cyclists because this sport hasn’t had the problems they’ve had. In tennis since 1990 we’ve had 65 positive tests, 10 of them recreational, some of them were guys like Mariano Hood who was taking stuff for hair loss – there was 10 or 15 of them – so there have been 30 to 35 performance-enhancing tests in that time.
“I don’t think tennis has been as bad as cycling but that isn’t to say that more can’t be done to make it 100 per cent sure there are no issues.”
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