| SAMPRAS: Will play other Grand Slams
Melbourne: Random drug testing is to be introduced at next month’s Australian Open for the banned endurance-enhancing substance EPO, organisers said Thursday.
Male and female professionals are already tested for recreational drugs and steroids, but some players believe the use of EPO has become prevalent.
Players will be officially informed of the tests at a meeting here on January 11, two days before the start of the first Grand Slam event of the year, Australian Open chief executive Paul McNamee said.
Penalties for positive tests are a two-year suspension for a first offence and a lifetime ban for a second.
Players first learned of moves to target EPO — or erythropoieten, which boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood — this year at Wimbledon.
In the past two years, Argentine players Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria have tested positive from urine tests for banned substances. Chela was suspended for three months, Coria for seven. Petr Korda, who won the 1998 Australian Open, tested positive for the steroid nandrolone at Wimbledon later that year. He was banned for a year.
World No. 7 Lindsay Davenport last October called for more drugs tests in tennis before the problem got out of hand. “I am an ardent supporter of in-and out-of-competition and doping in tennis must be nipped in the bud before it becomes a big problem,” Davenport said in Germany. “There must be more testing and the current system needs to be improved. With the exception of the US Open, I have only been tested once in the last 14 months.”
Governing bodies the WTA and ATP, plus the ITF — which oversees the four Grand Slam tournaments, the Davis Cup and Fed Cup — say they did 1,400 drug tests this year, almost 50 percent more than 2001.
Sampras, Mauresmo pull out
McNamee was putting on a brave face over the loss of marquee players Pete Sampras and Amelie Mauresmo. Frenchwoman Mauresmo said Wednesday she would be missing the Australian Open because of continued right knee problems.
“We still have all of the top 10 men and the top five women as well as 95 of the top 100 men,” McNamee said Thursday.
Sampras said he would skip the Australian Open but plans to compete in the final three major championships — the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open which he won this year. (AFP)