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 antidoping programme.
But the ITF boss also said he was 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 said.
Federer and Murray have expressed doubts about tennis’s antidoping 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 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 at the 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 acknowledged that the ITF was evaluating increasing the number of doping tests in tennis and even implementing a biological passport programme.
"Yes, that’s true," he said. "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 last year, 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." He thought some changes would be good, but would not solve all problems.
"I am not so 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," he said.