The drug testers came calling on Andy Murray here on Saturday night before the start of this week's Paris Masters – and the 25-year-old Scot was very happy to see them. Murray believes that tennis needs to do more out-of-competition drug testing and would like to see sanctions against players who fail tests applied more stringently.
While tennis is not believed to have a major drugs problem, critics believe that not enough testing is done, particularly out of competition. Most tests are carried out by the International Tennis Federation, though the World Anti-Doping Agency and UK Anti-Doping also test players.
Most tests are carried out during tournaments and most are urine tests, which are not considered as effective as blood tests. Last year only 21 players worldwide – 18 men and three women – were blood-tested out of competition by the ITF and Wada. Murray had a maximum of three in 2011 and none at all in 2010.
"I think the out-of-competition stuff could probably get better," Murray said. "When we're in December, when people are training and setting their bases, I think it would be good to try and do more.
"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."
Drug testing in France across all sports has become more thorough in recent years, particularly after all the controversies surrounding the Tour de France, and Murray was not surprised to be tested here. "In France they are pretty strict – pretty much every tournament I've played in France they've done drug testing," he said. "But the fact that it was blood and out of competition is a bit different to what we're used to."
There have been around 60 drugs cases since tennis started testing 22 years ago. Murray admitted that "you never know in any sport what's really going on", but said he did not believe tennis had a problem like cycling, which he described as a "purely physical" sport.
"I think there's very little skill involved in the Tour de France," Murray said. "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 how much the heart rates, all those things. Whereas with tennis, you can't teach the skill by taking a drug."
However, Murray believes that more testing could be done at the lower levels of tennis, pointing out that only the top 50 players have to complete "whereabouts" forms, specifying where they will be available to be tested every day of the year. "It doesn't necessarily always make sense just to test the guys that are at the top," Murray said. "You need to do it throughout the whole sport."
Murray said it had been wrong that some players had had drugs suspensions reduced. He pointed to the case of the American Wayne Odesnik, who was initially banned for two years for taking human growth hormone into Australia but had the sanction cut after he co-operated with the authorities.
"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," Murray said. "If we're going through this process, which, yes, 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 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.
Murray has a bye in the first round here and will play his first match tomorrow against the winner of today's meeting between France's Paul-Henri Mathieu and Roberto Bautista-Agut, of Spain. With a good run here and in next week's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London the Scot could finish the year as the world No 2.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday that Novak Djokovic is certain to end the year as world No 1 following Roger Federer's withdrawal from this week's tournament in order to rest before London. Djokovic, who lost the top spot to Federer after Wimbledon, will be the first player to top the year-end rankings in consecutive seasons since the Swiss achieved four consecutive No 1 finishes from 2004 to 2007.
Court out: drug tests in tennis
Martina Hingis (Swit) Tested for cocaine at Wimbledon in 2007. Banned for two years and had appeal rejected. Subsequently retired from top-level competition.
Filippo Volandri (It) Banned for three months after failing test for salbutamol in 2008, but reinstated after Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted his suspension on appeal.
Wayne Odesnik (US) Given partly retrospective two-year ban after importing human growth hormone into Australia in 2010. Ban eventually halved but he actually served only seven months of the suspension.