Andy Murray slams cycling for lack of skill and too many drugs… not like tennis

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

by Simon_MacMichael   October 30, 2012  

Andy Murray, US Open 2012, Francisco Diez, Wikimedia Commons

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.

80 user comments

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Wow, 51 comments so far, tennis is really popular, and not a helmet in sight.

antonio

antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1016 posts]
31st October 2012 - 15:34

3 Likes

“Cycling isn’t a game, it’s a sport. Tough, hard and unpitying, and it requires great sacrifices. One plays football, or tennis, or hockey. One doesn’t play at cycling.”

~Jean de Gribaldy

posted by wwfcb [70 posts]
31st October 2012 - 16:01

3 Likes

Good old Andy,first he says he does not like the english now he is having a pop at cycling,a sport i love to bits. i cheered him on in every final right up to the day he won one......well no more Mr Murry....COME ON RODGER,NADAL,etc...... Angry

posted by kiwimagic64 [9 posts]
31st October 2012 - 16:08

5 Likes

an earlier comment was made about rugby and drug testing.

Last year there was 1714 tests carried out by the IRB of which only 9 showed peculiar readings and i believe they were all from lesser known teams. Its still a small amount of checks worldwide but its getting there.

I know all the premiership clubs (rugby that is) do sporadic player checks themselves so that figure could be a lot higher if it was compiled correctly.

As for antonio's comment - there is a helmet mentioned - its Murray Devil Devil

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
31st October 2012 - 16:22

3 Likes

He will never win SPOTY anyway you need to have a personality to do that

posted by cavmem1 [44 posts]
31st October 2012 - 16:32

5 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.


think you might have just proved his point there mate. if you're really fit you can probably cycle fairly well - he'd beat most of us in a road race, him being a pro-athlete - but i'd bet my house that none of us could take a set off him in tennis.

stop being so reactionary, he's right about the skill level and he's probably mostly right about the drugs. unbelievably defensive cyclists in here...

+1 sponican and dodgy.

caketaster's picture

posted by caketaster [17 posts]
31st October 2012 - 16:53

3 Likes

No doping in tennis Andy? I suppose the fact that average match length has skyrocketed in the last ten years has nothing to do with it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longest_tennis_match_records

Also, I am sending you money for a proper haircut and some extra unused leg razors I have here for the back of your neck. It really looks quite embarrassing.

posted by zezeltin [4 posts]
31st October 2012 - 17:40

4 Likes

Not much skill in tennis....just hit a ball..?
Oh and don't forget to bring mummy with you Andy.!!

colhum1's picture

posted by colhum1 [98 posts]
31st October 2012 - 18:39

5 Likes

And +1 for Scottish independence !!

colhum1's picture

posted by colhum1 [98 posts]
31st October 2012 - 18:41

5 Likes

'Golf same'??

The rule of thumb is that if you get sweaty and/or out of breath whilst letting your boss win it's technically still a sport.

Golf is not a sport - it's a leisure activity like darts and dominos except more expensive.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
31st October 2012 - 18:45

4 Likes

He's entitled to his opinion but that also means I'm entitled to shove his racket up his mouth/backside (sideways). Insulting to say cycling requires little skill, what a stupid comment.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [395 posts]
31st October 2012 - 19:10

5 Likes

What a load of crap.

As someone said, if he wins the Sports Personality of the Year I'm gonna cry foul 'cos the boring tw@t does not have one.

I've never liked the miserable git and this has just confirmed my suspicions.

I don't think any sportsmen from other sports should comment on drugs until they're tested as much as pro-cyclists are.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [276 posts]
31st October 2012 - 19:34

7 Likes

MercuryOne wrote:
'Golf same'??

The rule of thumb is that if you get sweaty and/or out of breath whilst letting your boss win it's technically still a sport.

Golf is not a sport - it's a leisure activity like darts and dominos except more expensive.

Yes, 'golf same', it's a sport/game (whatever, I don't really care), I was just trying to point out to the hard of thinking of this usually intelligent forum that tennis is actually quite difficult to play - no matter how fit you are, which goes the same for golf. Understand now?

dodgy's picture

posted by dodgy [135 posts]
31st October 2012 - 19:35

4 Likes

Talking rubbish

Skills in professional cycling include the ability to ride downhill at 80kph or more with only a thin layer of lycra for protection.

Stamina is required in Tennis to make it through five sets when both players serve at over 160kph.

Both sports require skill, stamina and strength.

If the standard of testing in other sports is as bad as that exposed by USADA then all sports have a serious drugs problem. That for me was the main reason to disbelieve that Lance was taking drugs, hoping against hope that USADA had it wrong.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [292 posts]
31st October 2012 - 20:00

6 Likes

Best input on this list - top work mate!

posted by SimonT1971 [35 posts]
31st October 2012 - 20:36

3 Likes

He is dull and so is tennis.......

posted by leedgreen [30 posts]
31st October 2012 - 20:39

5 Likes

Murray put so much effort into improving his physique and strength when he was struggling to win games. Now that he is benefiting greatly from that extra advantage it seems strange for him to refer to Tennis as being purely a skill game. That's nonsense as performance in most sports would benefit from that bit extra strength or stamina. Therefore, drugs and doping will always be a temptation in any sporting field.
As for the skill element, I will refrain from commenting on such an intricate point as I admit that I do not have sufficient knowledge to allow me to do so. Perhaps Andy Murray should have a rethink on that basis himself, or at least have a word with his Mum.
As a fellow Scot, I have always supported his efforts on the Tennis circuit, but I have to admit that his personality is not on the same level as his game. Perhaps the success of the GB cycling team and Brad Wiggins has made him a little envious? Thinking

posted by Bob McCall [14 posts]
31st October 2012 - 20:58

6 Likes

Don't disagree with his comments re tennis skills relative to bike skills. That said, there is no way Nadal and Djokovic would have ever got near Federer without huge quantities of PEDs. Thinking

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [222 posts]
31st October 2012 - 21:52

4 Likes

F*ck me, 90% of these comments are an embarrassment. If I was a non-cyclist who came on here and read this I'd be leaving with a very low opinion of the cycling community. Read it back - school playground-level name calling based on a tabloid interview, which undoubtedly will have picked out the bits that made the best story. Chill out!

And road.cc, p1ss-poor "journalism". You should write for a red-top.

If you can't see that in general the skill of the participant makes a bigger difference in a top-level tennis match than it does in a bike race then you may as well give up now. Cycling is MASSIVELY about fitness, strength (mental & physical) & the ability to suffer - and it's all the better for it.

An unfit Roger Federer will still beat most opponents outside the top 4 - an unfit Bradley Wiggins would not have a chance.

posted by phazon [26 posts]
31st October 2012 - 22:51

2 Likes

For the skill level comment I'd pretty much agree with him, anyone arguing otherwise is having a laugh. Ivan Basso is not Danny MacAskill. Although Pozzatto's bunnyhop over Cav was something pretty special!

I think Andy's had enough shit journalism written about him to last several lifetimes without this crap too... "Slams" is a bit of a pisstake. Anyone above resorting to Nationalism can fuck off too!

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
1st November 2012 - 4:50

3 Likes

+1 for not getting quite so worked up about this. I also think Murray has a point on the skill thing - even though I acknowledge there's a lot of skill involved in cycling, there's more in tennis - so much more subtlety and finesse (imagine Wiggo on a tennis court (!) and then Murray on a bike if you don't agree). This is a great example of what happens when relatively complex thoughts are expressed less well than they could be, then get twisted all over the shop in the public arena until they turn into something completely different in people's minds. I think the worst you can say about Murray as a result of this is that he's a bit naive - but he's a 25 year-old professional sportsman for crying out loud! what do you expect? Chomsky?

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [584 posts]
1st November 2012 - 8:52

5 Likes

I can understand people getting worked up over the comments made, regardless of how or if the journo twisted them to suit,

BUT

my 8 year old son has just been reading the site when i left the computer on and lo and behold he has asked "whats s**t and f**k.

Can we please try and calm down some of the language used and remember who will read the comments. Thank you.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2847 posts]
1st November 2012 - 9:57

5 Likes

My knee jerk reaction was similar to a lot of the other negative comment already posted, but on reflection he makes a fair point. Thinking

boffo's picture

posted by boffo [34 posts]
1st November 2012 - 11:14

4 Likes

This site needs a 'like' button for posts.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

Cooks's picture

posted by Cooks [492 posts]
1st November 2012 - 12:13

3 Likes

Cooks wrote:
This site needs a 'like' button for posts.

caketaster likes this

caketaster's picture

posted by caketaster [17 posts]
1st November 2012 - 17:01

6 Likes

Tennis ,along with football,was invented to give really dumb,boring people something to talk about.

posted by stupomft [37 posts]
1st November 2012 - 19:13

3 Likes

stumps wrote:
I can understand people getting worked up over the comments made, regardless of how or if the journo twisted them to suit,

BUT

my 8 year old son has just been reading the site when i left the computer on and lo and behold he has asked "whats s**t and f**k.

Can we please try and calm down some of the language used and remember who will read the comments. Thank you.


Couldn't agree more.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
1st November 2012 - 20:47

3 Likes

The Rumpo Kid wrote:
stumps wrote:
I can understand people getting worked up over the comments made, regardless of how or if the journo twisted them to suit,

BUT

my 8 year old son has just been reading the site when i left the computer on and lo and behold he has asked "whats s**t and f**k.

Can we please try and calm down some of the language used and remember who will read the comments. Thank you.


Couldn't agree more.

Woops sorry! Blushing

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
1st November 2012 - 23:28

4 Likes

I'll probably agree with Murray about the skill - I'm better on a bike than I am at tennis (and I'm not that good on a bike either) BUT I hate tennis and pretty much everything to do with the game except that Russian bird and the girl scratching her bum in the poster. Cool

posted by shockleader [20 posts]
4th November 2012 - 15:37

5 Likes

As a Tennis Cycle and running coach. I have lost a bit or rather a lot of respect for Mr Murray. There wasn't much there is the first place if I am honest.

However Tennis matches can exceed 5 hours if thats not physical I don't know what is. 5 hours is roughly the average of a Tour de France stage. Maybe they don't play everyday admittidily but a tennis match is much more intense over those 5 hours. You can sit in the peleton for 4 with 1 hour of activity.

A grand slam is two weeks. There is definitely a degree of physicality in the Game. Novak Djokovic for instance is an incredibly physically fit player who relies an attrition quite a lot.

I do wonder how many do dope in Tennis though and football is another sport where they play a lot of very intense games every week. Tennis and especially Football will never allow for the sport to be brought down there is too much vested interest in the game.

Notice how football never comes under the spot light. Cycling is much easier game for the authorities with little effective vested interest in the sport and as a result justification for there existence.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [119 posts]
29th March 2013 - 12:05

3 Likes