Tennis is doing enough to combat drugs - ITF President

By Matt Brown

Maria Sharapova. Photo / AP
Maria Sharapova. Photo / AP

The head of the International Tennis Federation insists the sport is doing enough to combat cheating.

ITF President David Haggerty has made a flying visit to New Zealand en route to the Australian Open.

Tennis has been under the spotlight in the past year after a series of high profile incidents including the revelation of match fixing in the sport made at last year's Australian Open and the Maria Sharapova drugs saga.

Players such as Andy Murray and Roger Federer have spoken out in the past about not being tested enough and Haggerty says those two and other leading players can be expected to be tested around 25 times a year.

Last year's Shanghai Masters, one of the biggest men's ATP tournaments outside the Grand Slams had no drug testing, which seems inconceivable given most of the world's top players, were present.

But Haggerty says the absence of drugs testing last year in Shanghai didn't come as a surprise to him and is all part of the plan.

"Part of what we want to do with the drugs testing is to have it be unpredictable. If players know they are going to be tested at each event they can get into a pattern of doing things a certain way. So we are sure the way we put together the testing keeps the players clean and also keeps them off guard as to whether they are going to be tested.

Haggerty admits they have taken on board player criticisms however saying the four year plan they have just embarked on is much more rigorous than the previous programme which has just finished.

"We have a very rigorous programme, a combination of the WTA ATP, the Grand Slams and the ITF and we will have additional drugs testing in competition out of competition. It's much more rigorous than say four years ago and shows we are able to keep the athletes clean and protect the clean athletes." Haggerty said.

Meanwhile the ITF is prepared to offer an olive branch to Maria Sharapova despite the disgraced Russian threatening legal action following the Court of Arbitration decision to reduce her two year ban for taking Meldonium last year.

Haggerty says the ITF stands for clean athletes.

"She has been suspended but is coming back (in April) and is certainly welcome to tennis and it shows that all the athletes are clean and if they have an issue they serve their suspension and are welcome back." Haggerty said.

Match fixing has also been an unwelcome blight on the sport over the past year leading to the ITF increasing the number of Tennis Integrity Unit investigators.

Haggerty says the recent reports of match fixing over the past few weeks show the system is working.

"There have been about seven people suspended and those cases take between 18 and 24 months, and we work very closely with law enforcement and it shows that the Tennis Integrity Unit is doing its job to find the people who are involved in match fixing."

Haggerty says they have made changes to put more integrity measures into place such as having ITF spotters at pro circuit events.

While the past 12 months has been damaging for the sport, Haggerty believes there is a positive to come out of the scandals that have rocked the sport.

"It shows that tennis has been watching out and protecting the athletes. If there were not announcements and decisions made you might question whether we were turning a blind eye and the decisions that have been made shows we take the issues very seriously."

- NZ Herald

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