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Prague – Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), has criticised Roger Federer and Andy Murray for their doubts on the organisation's anti-doping programme.
But the ITF boss also said that he is evaluating doing more tests next year, particularly out-of-competition blood tests.
“You know the players, they like to talk. A few years ago, the same players were complaining because they were being tested,” Ricci Bitti told dpa in an interview.
Federer and Murray have expressed doubts about tennis's anti-doping programme in the wake of the Lance Armstrong case that has shaken cycling and sport in general.
“I feel I am being tested less now than six or seven years ago,” Federer said in London earlier this month.
“I agree with Andy, we don't do a lot of blood testing during the year,” Federer said.
Ricci Bitti, a veteran Italian sports official who is also a member of the executive committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said in Prague during the Davis Cup final in which the Czech Republic beat Spain this weekend that what Federer said “could be” true of him, since testing is allocated by drawing lots.
“But I don't think they are right,” he said.
“Still, they help us by saying that, because it allows us to move in the direction in which we want to move. But it's a bit strange. They change their minds a lot,” Ricci Bitti said.
He admitted that the ITF is evaluating increasing the number of doping tests in the sport and even implementing a biological passport programme.
“Yes, that's true,” he told dpa. “Over these few weeks we have been working on creating a programme that retains the same quality and has a few more tests, especially out of competition.
“Defining 'out of competition' in tennis is harder, because 'out' is rather before or after competition. But anyway we'll try to increase the percentage of tests done out of competition, blood tests and the number of tests in general,” he said.
“These are the three areas on which we are working with our partners (the Grand Slams, the ATP and the WTA). But we need consensus, because increasing the programme means a lot of money,” Ricci Bitti warned.
According to the ITF's latest statistics, 2,150 tests were carried out in the sport in 2011, of which only 131 were blood tests. Of the latter, only 21 were done out of competition.
“We think our programme is absolutely good. In terms of quality, our work is highly appreciated,” Ricci Bitti said.
However, he was willing to accept some criticism, saying “I think we are a little bit exposed in terms of quantity.”
Ricci Bitti thinks some changes would be good, but they would not solve all problems.
“I am not as pretentious as to think that we can catch all cheats,” he said.
“But I am confident that tennis is a clean sport. We need to improve our programme, but knowing other sports I am reasonably confident that we cannot have an Armstrong case. That was a highly organized and scientific system. That is not the case with tennis,” Ricci Bitti stressed.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the ruling cycling body UCI after the United States Anti-Doping Agency said in a report he was involved in the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” – Sapa-dpa