Novak Djokovic’s cheque for winning the Australian Open on Sunday was more than the entire annual budget for anti-doping in tennis, a programme many feel is woefully inadequate.
Djokovic and Andy Murray left Melbourne on Monday with a combined $3.8 million in their pockets for their efforts over the past fortnight.
The total funding for the 2013 anti-doping programme stands at $2 million, paid for by the four grand slams, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and ATP and WTA Tours. The cost includes $400,000 for the administration of the programme, paid for by the ITF.
More blood tests
Many players, including Djokovic and Murray, have called for more blood tests to ensure there is no cheating. Of the 2,150 tests carried out by the ITF in 2011, the last set of figures available, 131 were blood tests and only 21 were out of competition.
Blood tests accounted for between three and six per cent of all tests in tennis in 2011, compared to 35 per cent in cycling and 17.6 per cent in athletics. “I would struggle to know if there is any other sport where their drug-testing programme has gone backwards in recent years,” said Darren Cahill, who coached Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to the world number one spot.
Following Lance Armstrong’s confession that he took drugs in all seven of his Tour de France cycling wins, tennis has come in for greater scrutiny with regards to doping.
“You get blood tested at the slams, usually after you lose, but I’ve never been blood tested out of competition,” said American Mike Bryan, who won a record 13th grand slam title together with twin brother Bob Bryan in the men’s doubles on Saturday.
Only urine tests
Bryan said he is probably tested around 20 times a year, but out-of-competition, through the whereabouts programme, it has only ever been urine tests.
Urine tests can detect many drugs, including EPO, one of several taken by Armstrong and other leading cyclists but only blood tests can detect HGH, human growth hormone.
John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said tennis has an “effective anti-doping programme” but that more should be done. “If there are insufficient blood samples being taken then athletes will become aware of that and make it the drug of their choice because they know the sport does not pay attention to blood testing,” Fahey said.