Tennis is to introduce an Athlete Biological Passport Programme this year to boost the sport's fight against doping.

The International Tennis Federation, which manages and administers the anti-doping programme, made the announcement this morning following a meeting of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme Working Group on Tuesday.

The ITF, ATP, WTA and grand slam tournaments, who make up the group, unanimously supported the introduction of the passport, which is used to detect variances in biological make-up that might indicate doping and has been successfully used in cycling.

Advocate: Andy Murray has previously been critical of the lack of testing

 

The tennis authorities have been under pressure from their own players, particularly Roger Federer and Andy Murray, to increase the number of blood tests carried out.

In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 131 blood tests, with just 21 of those out of competition, 18 of which were carried out on male players.

The introduction of the passport will be coupled with an increase in the number of blood tests while the working group also recommended an overall increase in testing, especially out of competition.

Existing funding for the programme has been around US dollars 2million a year, which all bodies have agreed to increase, with the new level to be determined by the number and type of tests carried out.

ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said: 'The implementation of the Athlete Biological Passport is an important step in the evolution of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme as it provides us with a great tool in the fight against doping in our sport.

Caught: Doping test kits from the Japan Anti-Doping Agency

'We also hope to have increased support from the National Anti-Doping Agencies around the world who need to do their part if we are to win this battle and make our programme more effective.

'Our thanks to the grand slam tournaments, the ATP and WTA, who have recognised the need to increase the investment of tennis in anti-doping, and to the players who asked for more testing, especially blood testing, over the next few years.'

The process of introducing the programme will begin immediately and will be welcomed by the leading players.

Brad Drewett, ATP executive chairman and president, said: 'The ATP has always rigorously supported the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and believes that the move toward the Athlete Biological Passport is the appropriate step for tennis at this time.

'The players have been clear that they support increased investment in anti-doping and we feel that this is the most effective way to show the world that tennis is a clean sport.'

Newly-released figures for 2012 show an increase in blood testing, with 124 in-competition tests and 63 out of competition. Overall, there were 2,185 urine and blood tests carried out, up slightly from 2,150 in 2011.

Murray: It's time tennis got tough on drugs

World No 3 Andy Murray said last year that more testing should be done.

‘The out-of-competition stuff could probably get better,’ he said. ‘When we’re in December, when people are training and setting their bases, it would be good to do more around that time.’

‘I’ve probably had four or five blood tests this year, but a lot more urine, so it’s obviously completely necessary when you hear things like about Armstrong. It’s a shame for their sport but how they  managed to get away with it was incredible, for so long.

‘The one thing I would say with a sport like cycling is it’s purely physical, there’s very little skill involved in the Tour de France. It is the power, how many watts you’re producing, whereas with tennis you can’t learn the skill by taking a drug.

‘I think tennis at the top level has been pretty clean compared to most sports. But that isn’t to say more can’t be done to make 100 per cent sure there are no issues.’

Daily Mail