Home
Yet another top star from another sport neglects to leave glasshouse before throwing stones

Andy Murray, the world number three ranked tennis player, says his sport needs to step up its anti-doping efforts including out-of-competition testing – but maintains that tennis differs from cycling in being primarily focused on the skill of the athlete, something he believes doesn’t apply in cycling, which he claims is more about physical attributes.

“I think there's very little skill involved in the Tour de France, it's pretty much just physical," said Murray, quoted in the Herald. "A lot of the way the teams work now is just science whereas with tennis, you can't teach the skill by taking a drug.

"Virtually the whole of the Tour de France was taking drugs 10 years ago,” he maintained, claiming that since 1990 tennis had seen around “65 positive tests, 10 of them recreational and 30 to 35 performance-enhancing in that time.”

The Olympic and US Open men’s singles champion, speaking in a press conference ahead of this week’s Paribas Paris Masters that was reported by Mail Online and The Herald, added in a sweeping generalisation that apparently went unchallenged: “In one year of the Tour de France you had more than that so I don't think tennis has been that bad. But that isn't to say that more can't be done to make it 100% sure there are no issues."

Admittedly, in the notorious Festina Tour of 1998, there was clear evidence of wholesale doping involving a number of teams, and fewer than half the riders who set out from Dublin finished the race in Paris due to expulsions and withdrawals, but not a single rider actually tested positive.

The truth is that with no test for EPO at the time, the riders had an advantage over the testers, and it was only by seizing the physical drugs that the authorities were able to unravel the scale of the problem.

While cycling clearly still isn’t rid of doping, and in all likelihood never will be, there is a much higher level of testing than is the case in tennis. However, Murray implies that due to the nature of their sport, tennis players have less to gain from using performance enhancing drugs, although there are longstanding rumours linking several leading tennis players to use of steroids in particular to help build their strength.

In the past, he has criticised the intrusiveness of random testing, but now believes it is essential to combat doping, especially in the off season.

“The out-of-competition stuff could probably get better,” admitted the 25-year-old, who revealed he himself had been subject to a random blood test at the weekend.

“When we’re in December, when people are training and setting their bases, it would be good to do more around that time.

“On Saturday night it was completely random and that’s good because we’re not used to doing many blood tests.

“I’ve probably had four or five blood tests this year, but a lot more urine, so it’s obviously completely necessary when you hear things like about [Lance] Armstrong.

“It’s a shame for their sport but how they managed to get away with it was incredible, for so long.”

Critics of tennis’s approach to doping argue however that that the sport must do much more to address the issue and that it does far too little testing particularly of top players.

In 2010, for example, a year that Murray spent ranked between third and fifth in the world, he did not undergo a single out-of-competition test.

During the same year, there were no out-of competition tests on three of the top five ranked women’s players – world number one Caroline Wozniacki, plus Venus and Serena Williams. 

Earlier this month, an article on the website of the US magazine Tennis Now explored various hypotheses regarding doping in tennis and pointed out that while according to World Anti Doping Agency Statistics for the period from 2007 to 2011, the International Tennis Federation showed 53 positive tests, there were only 21 anti-doping rule violations recorded in the same period.

The magazine quoted the blog Tennis Has a Steroid Problem as asking: “What accounts for the difference between positive tests and violations? Did players have Therapeutic Use Exemptions allowing them to use a banned substance? Did their 'B' Sample test negative? Did a tribunal find that the players did not commit a violation? If so, what was the reason for their finding?”

While high profile doping cases in the sport remain few and far between – the biggest in recent years being when the American player Wayne Odesnik was caught red-handed with human growth hormone at Brisbane airport, eventually serving a 12-month ban, reduced from an original two years – tennis itself is now facing some uncomfortable questions.

In August, when former US Postal Service team doctor Luis Garcia del Moral was handed a lifetime ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the ITF acknowledged that he had worked with “various tennis players.”

It said that it would help enforce and give effect to USADA’s decision, including “not permitting Dr Garcia del Moral to participate in any capacity in, and denying him accreditation for or access to, any sanctioned tennis event or activity.”

The ITF added: “Players are asked to take careful note of the above when considering who to seek treatment, guidance and advice from in the future.”

Also in Spain, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the sports physician at the centre of the Operacion Puerto scandal in which athletes sanctioned were almost exclusively cyclists and non-Spanish nationals, has maintained in the past that he counted tennis players among his clients.

Whether he will name names or provide further details of his activities when the case goes to trial in Madrid in the new year remains to be seen.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

83 comments

Avatar
theincrediblebike [40 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Another one jumping on the band waggon. Yeah Tennis is clean, have you seen the Williams brothers. What do you perceive as a lack of skill, take it you he has never descended down a mountain on a road bike or seen a bunch sprint. Over to you Cav mate, no skill just physical attributes. Think I have lost a little bit of respect for Mr Murray here.

Avatar
Leviathan [2263 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

Cheap shot, sexist.

Avatar
giff77 [1258 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Same article was in the independant as well. Not impressed in Murray and his sweeping statement. I wonder how many positives will turn up if tests were intensified in his sport? After all, there are some games that that go on for hours. Surely stimulants must be used to keep ones focus in those situations as weLl as the steroids mentioned for strength  19

Avatar
Campag_10 [153 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

If Andy Murray thinks there's no skill required let's see him get on a bike and see how competitive he is.

If he's fit enough to play a five hour tennis match he should be able to cope with five hours in the saddle.

Avatar
Karbon Kev [688 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Not a tennis fan, never will be. cycling requires a lot more stamina, strength and technique than tennis ever will. Words of a fool imo.

Avatar
fatbeggaronabike [836 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

As Theincrediblebike says jumping on the band waggon, but which waggon? the I hate cycling one or the I can make a stupid comment on something I know very little about just like a footballer  39

Avatar
djcritchley [181 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Choke!
 21

Avatar
therevokid [971 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

tennis ? Skill ?? ... like smash the ball as hard as
possible so the other player can't hit it whilst
making stupid grunting noises skill ????

Avatar
sponican [93 posts] 4 years ago
2 likes

Don't get hung up on it - he's probably right about the significance of skill in tennis vs cycling. What's the problem with that?

Cycling does require a lot of skill but at the top level (apart from some exceptional cases) bike handling skills tend to be fairly uniform. Therefore physical attributes and fitness tend to become the significant differentiators. In tennis it is not uncommon to see a very fit player beaten by a very skilled player - that won't tend to happen in endurance sports.

Put simply - tennis is a game and turns on skill, cycling is a sport and turns on physical ability. That doesn't make one better than the other, it just makes them different.

Avatar
Gary613 [42 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Roll on Scottish Independence, we won't have to say Murray is GB Tennis Player.
We can just call him chip on the shoulder, miserable, bad advert for Scotland Tennis Player.

Avatar
georgee [170 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Chin up though, after buying a Gold Medal and getting a grand slam because all the good players were having a day off your failure to get SPOTY is sealed again.

Oh yes, and stop trying to grow a beard, you can't!

Avatar
Nick T [970 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

And yet the reason always trotted out for the dominance of the top 3 tennis players is their superior stamina over the course of a 5 set Grand Slam. Why can't any other player work on their endurance the same way?

Avatar
antonio [1134 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Another tennis player talking balls!!

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [514 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

I think it'd pretty widely accepted that tennis has a significant problem with drugs, and much like the UCI today, tennis' governing body may find their current actions to combat their doping issues will be perceived as complicity at best in years to come.
With that in mind, Murray's comments are either delivered with a mind numbing amount of blinkered ignorance, or there are darker forces/motivations at work here. Either way I find it worrying.
That said, he is right, tennis is more skill and less physical when compared to cycling. However it is still all physical skill. I mean by that, that it is a physical effort to hit a ball hard, to run and take a shot etc etc. What is key to this is that with physical effort comes fatigue. When learning a skill, what makes you better is repetition... The more you do it, the better you get.
With that in mind, anything that can help you train harder and longer will be just as useful to your competitive performance as any drugs used in cycling. So Murray is probably right, come match day, they'll mainly be clean, as all their doping takes place in training.

Avatar
RacePace [18 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Has he read this?

Idiot!!!! Glass houses or what!

http://bikepure.org/2012/10/cycling-serves-an-ace-against-tennis/

What a complete tool he is!

Avatar
mingmong [265 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes
Campag_10 wrote:

If Andy Murray thinks there's no skill required let's see him get on a bike and see how competitive he is.

If he's fit enough to play a five hour tennis match he should be able to cope with five hours in the saddle.

He wouldn't get the lid on with that barnet!  19

Avatar
kitkat [395 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

+1 sponican. Getting cyclists worked up over nothing is like shooting fish in a barrell. It's embarrassing to see the same righteous indignation reaction every time.

Avatar
Colin Peyresourde [1773 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I think there are a few too many reactionary comments here. But I do believe that professional sports around the globe have a problem with drugs. Tennis being no exception.

I had to laugh at the first comment about the 'Williams Brothers'. But more seriously, it struck me, in light of the tennis player being caught with Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that one of the side effects of its use is buckling of the teeth. Adult users are then forced to use braces to correct their teeth. I seem to remember both Williams sisters wearing them in their early careers. And didn't Andy Murray have them? It's not a sure sign, but it is rather strange that these dental problems were not fixed until adulthood.

The major problem is not cycling, but rather a lack of impetus by authorities to develop a serious anti-doping program that works. There is a lot to be sceptical about with Tennis, cycling and lots of other sports.

Avatar
timbola [247 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Oh dear, Mr Murray, yet more monotonic drivel from somebody who should, perhaps, let his tennis-playing speak for him instead of his mouth.
Operacion Puertool por favor  3

Avatar
Tony Farrelly [2871 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I agree don't think there's too much to be gained by getting bent out of shape over Murray's comments re the relative levels of skill required for cycling and tennis, he's spent his life immersed in tennis and clearly doesn't have much of an appreciation of what is required to succeed at the top level in other sports, but if you are going to open your mouth and say stuff like this at a press conference expect it to get reported - especially by a cycling website. The other reason for including his remark on skill is that it underscores the naivety of he remarks about drugs. Murray also explicitly makes the link between skill and drug use.

I don't know much about tennis but it seems to me that fitness and stamina do play a greater part in a player's success at the very top level - isn't greater strength and stamina the attributes which are often cited as being key to Nadal and Djokovic's success against other top level players and wasn't a lack of relative strength and stamina given as a reason for Murray's failure to win key games against top players in the past?

Avatar
OldRidgeback [2658 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Actually, he's probably not that wrong in claiming many cyclists were using drugs in the 1990s. And he's not wrong in claiming tennis requires more individual skill than the Tour. I'd like to see him try a BMX race though as that needs speed and skill.

But I doubt tennis was that clean of drug use in the past. And I'm sure there are plenty of other sports with a murky past. Just think about a sport like rugby for instance, which requires huge physical strength. Do you really think all the players got their muscle from working out?

Avatar
Blease [8 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

Cough...Nadal....cough....Operation Puerto..

Avatar
crikey [1252 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

I think Andy should take a tiny wee loook at the website tennishasasteroidproblem before he gets anymore stupid.

Avatar
stefv [212 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

I don't see anything other than naivety in his comments and it is not worth getting worked up about it. In the end his point is correct though, that testing is not thorough enough in Tennis and other sports.

Avatar
aslongasicycle [385 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

A (classic) pathetic example of a lack of skill in cycling:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxXqQqAc2pA

Avatar
dodgy [203 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

I think Murray is mostly right, Tennis is a sport of skill, can you imagine two supremely fit blokes trying to play tennis together? It would be hilarious if they aren't regular tennis players.

Golf, same.

Avatar
Edgeley [395 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

Tennis and Cycling are, surprise surprise, very different. One of them involves a ball,and hence tends to require ball skills. One of them involves a bike,and involves bike skills.

I don't doubt that Murray knows that, and was just trying to point out that stamina enhancing drugs will be more effective in cycling than in tennis. However, that doesn't mean that tennis doesn't have a drug problem.

Avatar
JohnS [198 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

So... Man who finally manages to win something in a silly game played with fluffy green balls, invented to keep the bored Victorian middle class occupied on their lawns and universally taken up by schoolgirls, slags off one of the few real sports there is.

Piss off, Murray.

Avatar
sorebones [139 posts] 4 years ago
1 like

Spot on Tony.

I don't understand the overreaction here either. We criticise athletes for keeping to the Omertà, then slate them when they actually voice an opinion. Yes, he makes some rather ignorant sweeping statements about cycling, but he recognises that tennis can do far more and wants an increase in out of competition testing.

No doubt other sports will face their own drug revelations in years to come, let's celebrate the fact that we are facing up to the issue and not sticking our heads in the sand like so many other sports (football, US sports etc etc etc).

Some people on these forums are far too precious about our sport. We are getting pelters left right and centre because there was/is a problem. Let's face it, if the UCI had their way we'd still be in the dark about some of these revelations from the USADA report. If we pretend that all is well now we'll be facing the next Festina/US Postal in another 10 years time.

Avatar
notfastenough [3715 posts] 4 years ago
0 likes

It was the late eighties, early nineties when cycling's drug problem really took off, as reflected by written memoirs by Lauren Fignon etc, and common knowledge of the various scandals.

It was also, (IIRC) the late eighties, early nineties when tennis fundamentally changed due to the escalating muscular power developed by the players - anyone remember all the controversy over the women's grunting over every shot?

It wouldn't surprise me to find an omerta in many other sports, and I think tennis is a strong contender for this.

Pages