Tennis: Ruling bodies rally against drugs: Men's and women's tours adopt new anti-doping programme to come into force next year

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The Independent Online
THE men's and women's tours have joined together with the International Tennis Federation, the sport's governing body, to adopt a common anti-doping programme, which will come into force next year.

Current drug-testing procedures have been criticised for being disparate, inconsistent and unsatisfactory, even though tennis returned to the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. Random testing has taken place for several years at the four Grand Slam events: Wimbledon and the championships of France, the United States and Australia.

Though administrators have insisted that there is no drugs problem, certain leading players have expressed doubts. Two years ago, urging more stringent testing, Steffi Graf said that she had once played an opponent who was on drugs. 'I could tell this player was doped,' the former Wimbledon champion said. 'I could see it.'

Boris Becker was reprimanded by the ATP Tour earlier this year after making unsubstantiated allegations of drug abuse.

The new co-ordinated programme, which will be independently administered by an organisation named FirstLab, has a number of priorities. These include: Unifying anti- doping rules and procedures for controls conducted both during competition and out of competition; adopting a common list of prohibited substances and methods modelled after that of the International Olympic Comittee; to adopt a common list of sanctions for violation of the rules; using laboratories accredited by the IOC; establishing a common international review board to receive all results.

'Tennis's anti-doping programme underscores the commitment of the ITF, ATP Tour and WTA tour, as well as their player members, to promote the international anti- doping movement in sport,' the ITF said yesterday.

'This programme will ensure that all tennis players, both men and women, professional and amateur, who compete in tournaments sanctioned by the ITF, ATP Tour or WTA tour, will be tested consistently worldwide.'

Sepp Blatter, the general secretary of Fifa, football's world governing body, called for his sport to re-examine its approach to drugs and drugs testing when it was revealed yesterday that an unnamed French player was suspended last year for failing a test.