The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Top stars undecided about blood tests

Sydney: The world’s top tennis players are divided over the decision to start blood testing for EPO at next week’s Australian Open.

While most players, including former world No. 1 Andre Agassi say they are in favour of the idea, not everyone agrees. Russian Marat Safin said he is stridently opposed to it, arguing that doping is not a major problem in tennis.

“I’m not supporting that,” he said. “I said to the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) that I don’t think it’s correct, but they didn’t really listen.

“If they want to bring the hospital to the Australian Open...They’re gonna have a big problem with that.”

Safin said he thought the existing urine testswere satisfactory and players should not have to be subjected to needles to extract blood.

Safin, meanwhile, withdrew from the quarter final of the Sydney International tournament on Thursday due to an inflamed rotator cuff in his serving shoulder.

The ITF announced last month that it would proceed with blood testing at the Australian Open after a spate of highly-publicised doping busts.

In the past two years, Argentine players Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria were handed stiff penalties following positive dope tests.

In 1998, Petr Korda was banned for a year after testing positive for steroids during Wimbledon.

Agassi said he fully supported the introduction of blood tests. “For the sake of the game, any drug that gives somebody an advantage...Nobody should have to worry about that sort of thing,” he said.

“Anything that we can do to get rid of that should be done. There’s a lot of great athletes out there proving themselves in a very straightforward way. You have to make sure nobody can question that.”

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