Regular tests will prevent crisis: Fed

Roger Federer being watched by coach Ivan Ljubicic during practice at the Miami Open. He was due to face former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who is also on the comeback trail, yesterday.
Roger Federer being watched by coach Ivan Ljubicic during practice at the Miami Open. He was due to face former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, who is also on the comeback trail, yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Swiss legend doesn't think tennis has a drug problem, but backs more regular scrutiny

MIAMI • Roger Federer has urged the tennis authorities to implement a doping crackdown in the wake of Maria Sharapova failing a drug test.

The Swiss star revealed before his comeback from knee surgery at the Miami Open yesterday that, when residing in Dubai - where he owns a property and spends about two months a year - he has been tested only once in the past 10 years.

When in Europe, however, the 34-year-old is visited by testers regularly. However, following Sharapova's admission of using the banned substance meldonium, Federer believes more needs to be done to avert a crisis.

"Tennis is doing a lot better than we have in the past," he said on Thursday. "You could always do more testing.

"What is the right amount and what's not? Clearly, I was very surprised (about Sharapova); I thought she was going to announce her retirement. But it also shows that the famous players can get caught.

"It seems to be working. I still believe we should keep blood samples for 10 years, so tennis players know that you could get punished retroactively. I'm a big believer in that.

"I've been in Dubai for 10 years now and I've been tested once in 10 years - that's not okay for me. I get tested more in Switzerland because a tester lives in my village. He comes and sees me the day after my surgery and a week later."

Asked if there was a drug problem in tennis, Federer said: "I don't think so. Maybe I am naive in the fact that I believe athletes, I trust what they are doing.

"I don't think there is a major problem, all I can talk about is myself. I quadruple check anything I take. I don't want to take any chances whatsoever."

The Swiss, who revealed the knee surgery he underwent last month was required because of an injury suffered while preparing a bath for his twin daughters, also added his voice to the furore surrounding equal pay in tennis.

"It depends on what tournaments we are talking about," he said. "I think we have got to be very specific about what we are talking about.

"I'm all for equal prize money... But then you have to look at the history of each and every event, where it comes from, where a certain tournament was maybe a men's tournament before or maybe they joined later, or vice versa, so it's sometimes not easy to make equal prize money.

"It's really up to the tournament director to decide... I'm glad that tennis has produced some of the best female athletes in the world. Equal prize money is a good thing."

Federer injured his left knee following his Australian Open defeat by Novak Djokovic in January. He had to undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus and clarified the cause of the problem on the eve of his return.

"I don't exactly remember what happened," said the 17-time Grand Slam champion. "I think I was going to run a bath for the girls. I made a very simple movement, turned back, heard a click in my knee. I went to the zoo. My leg was swollen.

"I had an MRI done in Switzerland. Saw a doctor right after the MRI. He said I had to have surgery. I did that in Switzerland. Here I am seven weeks and two days later.

"I'm very happy (about) how it went but clearly that was very sad when I did get the news I did have to have an operation because I thought I was going to get through my career without any. It was a big shock and, yeah, disappointing."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'REGULAR TESTS WILL PREVENT CRISIS: FED'. Print Edition | Subscribe