Dr Stuart Miller, the head of the International Tennis Federation’s science and technical department, has told The Tennis Space that they have found no evidence of systematic doping. “We haven’t found evidence of that yet, but doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop looking as hard as we can for it,” said Miller, who oversees the drugs-testing programme. “It would be naive to think that there isn’t a risk – we’ve had more than 60 doping violations since 1995.”
Will there be an increase in drugs-testing this summer with the Olympics?
“In addition to the tennis anti-doping programme, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] has it own programme in association with the Olympics, which will add more testing. Overall in tennis this year, more tests will be conducted than in previous years, which the ITF welcomes.”
Are you concerned that there could be a doping problem in tennis?
“We’ve had, since 1995, 62 doping offences, so clearly there’s a risk. It would be naive to think that there isn’t a risk. Which is why we’ve got a wide ranging programme in place. Ideally, you would test every player every day. Clearly, there aren’t enough resources to do that, so you have to find ways to make the programme as efficient and as effective as possible, which is why every one of our tests is ‘no advance notice’ so it’s a surprise to the player when someone turns up to test them.
“We test players in competition and we test them out of competition. We do both blood and urine tests, both in and out of competition. All unannounced. We test for the full range of substances on the WADA prohibited list, we test for human growth hormone, we have a testing programme for EPO. We have a random testing programme, and we have a target testing programme as well.”
How does the targeting programme work?
“It’s based on information that we gather which might identify player or players who you feel might be at greater risk of doping than others. Therefore you would prioritise them for testing at a particular time or place based on that information. You pick up intelligence from lots of places, from a varity of sources – I obviously can’t say much about those sources – but you piece all that information together and plan your testing accordingly.”
It’s been suggested that you believe that taking prohibited substances would not give you as much benefit in tennis as in other sports?
“There’s a context to that. The sports which have the highest prevalence of offences have tended to be those where you are maximising a performance variable such as power, or strength or speed. I’m not saying that doping in tennis doesn’t have any potential benefits – of course it does. just that being a top tennis player takes more than those things, such as hand-eye coordination, technique, tactics, and mental toughness. We’ve seen more than 60 doping violations, which is why we have the programme in place to catch those who are cheating. To be quite clear, I’m not saying that there isn’t a risk of doping or that there aren’t potential benefits of doping.”
Do you think there is systematic drugs abuse in tennis?
“We haven’t found evidence of that yet, but doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop looking as hard as we can for it. Our programme is more wide-ranging than ever before so if that is happening, we’ve got a better chance than ever before of finding it. We’ve got to do our best to weed out any problems that there are and continue to strive to make tennis a doping-free sport.”