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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Tennis boosts drug testing
Tim Henman
Henman says he has been tested while not in competition

Tim Henman insists drug abuse is not a major issue in tennis but has welcomed the increasingly stringent testing procedures in the game.

The ATP Tour has announced it will begin blood testing for the banned endurance-enhancing substance EPO in August or September, pending approval by the players' council.

And speaking after his victory over Scott Draper at Wimbledon on Thursday, the Briton said the testing system is already proven.

"We have a testing programme - people have been caught.

"I don't suddenly think that we've got some sort of drug issue in the sport."

That may be the case, but the ATP is confident that after the success of limited EPO testing at the Winter Olympics, the time is right to introduce them into tennis.

New technology has overcome the difficulty of carrying out blood tests on-site, and it will now be possible to test in four tournaments on four continents at the same time.


Some guy rocks up on your doorstep and says, 'You're doing a drug test'
Tim Henman

Speaking to BBC Sport Online, Richard Ings, the ATP's head of Rules and Competition, outlined the current scale of drug testing.

"We carried out over 800 tests on 290 players last year," said Ings. "A top-10 player was tested, on average, 7.4 times last year, while a top-50 player was tested an average of 5.4 times."

Until now, tennis has been one of the few sports to remain relatively untarnished by drug abuse among players.

But despite the relatively good record of tennis, the issue has still reared its head at Wimbledon.

Following on from comments made by Nicolas Escude at last month's French open, accusations have also been made against John McEnroe by his former wife Tatum O'Neal, which the American great rejected.

In Paris, French Davis Cup player Escude said: "To say that tennis today is clean, you have to be living in a dream world."

Escude was heavily criticised for that comment, and Ings explained that keeping the players fully informed of the latest developments is a major challenge.

"The key issue is PR," Ings told BBC Sport Online. "Many people and players don't understand how the system works.

"When comments like Nicolas' come up we make sure we sit down one-to-one with the player.

Right direction

"All the guys attend the ATP University and we talk about this issue until we're blue in the face, but some players still don't get it.

"That's not their fault, but it means we have to keep on trying."

Henman would appear to be one of the more clued-up members of the men's tour, and as a top 10 player he already has plenty of experience of the testing procedure.

"You know, we get tested all the time. I would say between half a dozen to a dozen times a year," said Henman.

"I've been tested out of competition. Some guy rocks up on your doorstep and says, 'You're doing a drug test'.

"If that's the case, and they've caught people, then that's a step in the right direction."

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