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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 16:33 GMT
ITF boss backs drugs stance
International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti says he is pleased players want more information over doping issues.

Andre Agassi recently said players were worried by a lack of clarity over what they were allowed to take and asked the authorities for guidance.

"I was complaining for a while that the tour authorities weren't doing enough to inform players," Ricci Bitti said.

"Now it's good they want to be informed, I think that's positive."

Ricci Bitti said he did not think tennis had a serious problem but warned that the sport must be vigilant, and said player education was vital.

"It's important for the juniors and it's important for the credibility of the game. We have to defend the integrity of our sport and tell people that they don't improve by cheating, especially when they are young," he said.

For the future we have to be more flexible on doping bans
ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti
The Association of Tennis Professionals has responded to player requests by setting up a task force to help minimise risks for players taking vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements.

Last year, seven players were exonerated after an independent inquiry ruled they may have taken contaminated substances given to them by ATP trainers.

Greg Rusedski, who tested positive for nandrolone last year, is currently awaiting the outcome of a hearing held last month in Montreal, and could face a two-year ban.

"It's a matter for the panel to decide," said Ricci Bitti. "I will respect the panel in any case."

He added that he would like to see more flexibility on sanctions for future doping offences.

Tennis has signed up to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) code, which means a mandatory two-year ban for doping offences.

Ricci Bitti said he supported that policy for the moment but would like to follow football in retaining the concept of individual case management.

"For the moment (the two-year ban) is acceptable," he said.

"But I am not a great rigid supporter of the same fine (sanction) because the conditions are very different sport by sport and age by age.

"I think for the future we have to be more flexible. That's my personal position."

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