The Lance Armstrong scandal continues to rip through cycling but with so much money on offer in other sports, doping is an issue for everyone. Andy Murray has been critical of the testing process in the past but on Monday, he told a small group of reporters how the Armstrong scandal has affected his understanding of drugs and called for more blood testing, more out of competition testing and the strict enforcement of bans for cheats.
This is the first time we’ve seen you since the Lance Armstrong scandal erupted. Is he someone you followed a lot?
No, I really didn’t. Obviously I knew a fair amount about him. There were always suspicions, especially the last few years when there were loads of guys failing tests and it was coming out, so it was always looking increasingly likely that something like that was going to have been going on. I actually had a blood test on Saturday night, an out of competition test, it was completely random. I think that’s good; we’re not used to doing that many blood tests in tennis. I’ve probably had four or five blood tests this year, but a lot more urine, so it’s something that’s obviously necessary because when you hear things like (Armstrong) it’s a shame for their sport but how they managed to get away with it is incredible, for that long.
Is it naïve to think that tennis doesn’t have a problem with drugs?
No (but) you never know in any sport what’s really going on. The one thing I would say with a sport like cycling, is it’s purely physical. There’s very little, I think, skill involved in the Tour de France, it’s pretty much just physical. A lot of the way the teams work now is just science, the power, however many watts you’re producing, they know all of it based on the heart rates, all those things; whereas with tennis, you can’t teach the skill by taking a drug. But you never know with the sports. The thing with tennis is that there’s a lot of testing at the top end, but lower down there isn’t anywhere near as much as near at the top end. I’ve looked a few times at the list of how many times guys have been tested and you can see it, because with the Whereabouts form, I think only the top 50 singles players and maybe only the top 10 doubles players have to do it, so it doesn’t necessarily always make sense just to test the guys that are at the top, you need to do it throughout the whole sport and I think that would help as well. But it was good to see that we’ve started doing the out of competition blood testing because most of the time we’ve done out of competition stuff, it’s been urine, so that was a change.
You think it might not have been a coincidence, in terms of timing?
Who knows? I mean, in France, they are pretty strict. Pretty much every tournament I’ve played in France, they’ve done drug testing, so it’s not really that surprising, but the fact that it was blood and out of competition is a bit different to what we’re used to.
You’ve spoken about annoyance of being tested in middle of night. Has Armstrong stuff made you a bit more tolerant about it all?
Yeah, I think, the thing I would say about tennis is that we get tested throughout the whole year, from a lot of the tournaments. I think the out of competition stuff could probably get better. When we’re in December, when people are training and setting their bases I think it would be good to try and do more around that time. The thing that bugged me with it, was when you have the whole Wayne Odesnik thing, I just feel that if people are going to go through the process of doing the whole Whereabouts thing and yes, all of the players are putting the 6-7 in the morning – but there’s a reason for that because they know exactly where they’re going to be – that if people fail the tests, don’t let them off and don’t say, OK, it’s going to go from two years to six months, because that’s not how it should work. If we’re going through this process, which yeah, can at times be a bit frustrating even if it is necessary, when somebody fails a test, don’t just let them back into the sport 18 months earlier than what they should be. That’s what was frustrating for me about it because we’re going through all of this and they’re being too lenient with guys that are travelling with human growth hormone to other countries. It’s ridiculous.
Are tennis players tarnished by the same brush because of what’s happened in cycling?
I think tennis at the highest level, in comparison to most sports, has been pretty clean. I would be completely open to anyone to come and watch what I do in December and see the stuff I do, how I recover, how I wake up some mornings. Sometimes guys are good at putting a brave face on after playing a five-hour match and getting up the next day, struggling to walk, all those things. People can come and watch the training that we do. But I don’t think people look at tennis players in the same way that they would at the cyclists because this sport hasn’t had the problems they’ve had. Literally the whole of the Tour de France was taking drugs ten years ago and in tennis since 1990 we’ve had (around) 65 positive tests, 10 of them recreational – some of them were guys like Mariano Hood who was taking stuff for hair loss – there were 10 or 15 of them, so there have been 30 to 35 performance enhancing in that time. In one year of the TDF you had more than that so I don’t think tennis has been that bad but that isn’t to say that more can’t be done to make it 100 percent sure there are no issues.