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Murray: Let's flush out the drug cheats

Tennis may not be in the class of cycling when it comes to doping, but in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, Andy Murray yesterday called for more blood testing and more out of competition testing to flush out the cheats.

Andy Murray wants those convicted of cheating to receive the proper punishment for their crimes. Picture: AP Photo
Andy Murray wants those convicted of cheating to receive the proper punishment for their crimes. Picture: AP Photo

It was a bold call by Murray, who has been critical of the testing process in the past, unhappy at being visited at all hours by those with a needle and a test kit. As a skill-based sport, Murray said he believes drugs are less beneficial in tennis than other sports but is well aware that the eyes of the world are now on all athletes, looking for any signs of wrong-doing.

"I don't think people look at tennis players in the same way that they would at cyclists because this sport hasn't had the problems they've had," said Murray, as he prepared to begin his title bid at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris.

According to the International Tennis Federation, which oversees the testing process, a blood test can cost up to $1000 a time, which only partly explains why, in 2011, it conducted just 21 out-of-competition blood tests, 18 to men and just three to women.

Because players can be tested by a number of other drug-testing bodies, including the World Anti-Doping Agency and each country's national doping agency, it is difficult to put exact figures on just how often individual players are tested.

However, the ITF conduct most of the tests and in 2010 and 2011 it tested Murray in competition at least seven times. In 2011, he was tested out of competition between one and three times, but in 2010 not at all. Other top players have similar testing figures.

Murray said he was blood-tested on arriving in Paris at the weekend and said blood-testing had to be the way forward, especially given what we have learned about Armstrong and his fellow Tour de France cyclists.

"They came to the hotel on Saturday and it was completely random," Murray said. "I think that's good. We're not used to doing that many blood tests in tennis – I've probably had four or five blood tests this year – so it's something that's obviously necessary."

It is classic Murray to know the facts and figures when it comes to any issue in tennis and drugs is no different. The Scot says he has been looking at the ITF's figures for testing and believes they need to go further down the ranking list.

"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," he said. "We get tested throughout the whole year [but] I think the out-of-competition stuff could probably get better."

When cheats are caught, Murray wants them punished properly. In 2010, Wayne Odesnik served just seven months of a retrospective two-year ban, imposed after Australian immigration officials caught him with eight vials of human growth hormone in his luggage.

"If people are going to go through the process of doing the whole "whereabouts" thing [players have to declare one hour, every day where they will be, three months in advance] then if people fail the tests, don't let them off and don't say, okay, it's going to go from two years to six months, because that's not how it should work.

"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 just ridiculous."

While Murray begins his title bid here tomorrow, Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins were in doubles action yesterday.

Having just missed out on a place in next week's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, they beat the Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey 6-7, 7-6, 10-7 to reach the second round.

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