Andy Murray gives backing to tennis ‘drug tax’

Andy Murray. Picture: Getty
Andy Murray. Picture: Getty
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ANDY Murray has called for a “drug tax” in tennis to keep the sport clean.

Repeating his demands for more blood testing of players, including out-of-competition tests, the world No 3 said that if the cost of a more widespread anti-doping policy was prohibitive for the tennis authorities then the players should dip into their own pockets to fund it.

“If it means taking some of the money out of the players’ earnings then that’s what we have to do,” Murray said. “It’s not just tennis – all sports now need to look very closely at this stuff because I think a lot has been learned from what’s happened with the Lance Armstrong situation and you don’t want that happening ever again. And I don’t want that happening for my sport because it would be terrible.”

Lance Armstrong’s admissions of repeated drug taking during his cycling career did not take many people by surprise but when Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, alleged to be the mastermind behind one of cycling’s biggest doping scandals, admitted in a Madrid court recently that he had worked with tennis players and other athletes as well as cyclists, the normally cosy little world of tennis was shocked. And Murray believes that something needs to be done quickly to protect the reputation of his sport.

“The one thing I’d say about that is I think it’s essential that the names of whoever was involved with him, I think it is essential that that comes out,” he said. “I’ve been asked a lot, lately especially, if tennis is clean. I don’t know anymore how you judge whether a sport is clean.

“If one in 100 players is doping, in my eyes, that isn’t a clean sport and we need to do everything we can to ensure that everyone that’s competingat the highest level, and below, is clean. I think that comes with the biological passports and with more blood testing.

“I know the training that I do and I know what goes in and out of my body, and I know from my side that I’m clean, so that’s all I can comment on. I would hope that that’s the same for the rest of the tennis players.”

Biological passports log an athlete’s drug test results and physiological data and so can help highlight any significant changes over a period of time, changes that may indicate drug use even if the athlete has not actually failed a drug test. So far, the passports have been successful in cycling and may be introduced into tennis by the end of this year. But such innovations cost money.

Between them, Murray and Novak Djokovic earned £2.4million for reaching the Australian Open final – twice the annual anti-doping budget in tennis. The system currently in place to catch the drugs cheats is administered by the International Tennis Federation but is funded by the four grand slam tournaments, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA.

Yet for all the money sloshing around the professional tennis circuit, only 21 out of competition blood tests were carried out in 2011 (the latest figures released by the ITF) and only 131 were carried out in all. That is not nearly enough, according to Murray.

“A lot of it unfortunately comes down to money,” Murray said. “Maybe it’s down to our governing bodies and the ATP to invest some of our own money into WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] and making sure we get more testing done. That’s the only way you can prove your testing procedures – by having more of them, more blood testing, and you need money to do that. It’s a cost thing.

“But in the long term, I think you save a lot of money, I think more people would come to watch sports rather than reading all the time all the time about these doping scandals or match fixing or whatever it is. It’s just every single week right now that there’s something different and it’s just bad for sport.”