Tennis: French dope test muddle

AUSTRALIAN PLAYERS preparing for the Davis Cup final against France in Nice refused to undergo a drugs test yesterday until a misunderstanding over doping procedures was resolved. After the rules were clarified they all underwent the tests later in the day.

Christian Dixin, the official in charge of the organisation for this weekend's final, said the players thought they should be tested only during the three days of competition under an International Tennis Federation agreement. "The Australians were aware of this agreement," Dixin said. "But there is also a deal between the French and Australian governments which says that any athlete from either country can be random-tested at any time in France or Australia. This is an agreement that the Australian team say they are unaware of."

John Newcombe, the Australian captain, confirmed the misunderstanding but said he had no objection to the tests. "Apparently, an agreement has existed since September between our two countries, but we did not know about it," he said.

Meanwhile, the regular doubles pairing, Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge, face a stiff task going into this weekend's final. Not only have their French opponents Olivier Delaitre and Fabrice Santoro got the better of them in their last two matches, but they must face them on clay - the Australians' least favourite surface. "We have lots of respect for them. They have been one of the best, or maybe the best team in the world over the past 10 years," Santoro said.

Delaitre, in fact, has beaten the Australians on the last three occasions. "I beat them with Fabrice in the quarter-finals in Cincinatti last season and in the doubles Masters," he said. "And I also beat them with Leander Paes in Indianapolis."

Saturday's doubles match could again prove decisive. Since 1981 the team who has won the doubles has won the cup and Woodbridge and Woodforde have the best record in the Davis Cup with 13 victories and just two losses.