This year tennis has seen some very interesting cases when it comes to drug testing. Players asked over the years for there to be more vigilance with testing and they have been asking for more testing to be done, but then there have been comments that maybe things have gone a bit too far in that maybe there should be some consideration be given to circumstances.
I am not prepared in this instance to go into the rights and wrongs of cases. What I want to raise here is the issue of money and this is an aspect that has not really been discussed at any great length publically.
There is no doubt that everyone wants a clean sport. I can only speak with regards to tennis but no doubt every other sport is the same. Tennis should have a level playing field and the cheats should be marched out of the game. There is no room for them in tennis and it tarnishes the reputation of the sport.
If there is drug testing every week rather than it just being a random thing, then sobeit. The issue is the cost. To deal with drug testing is an incredibly expensive process. It is meticulous and obviously has to be, but the cost of medical staff, transport, laboratories being used and so on is almost prohibitive.
So who pays?
Right now the international governing body foots the bill. The International Tennis Federation has been handling procedures for a few years, since the ATP World Tour and the WTA handed it the responsibility while all three administrations agreed to the rules and guidelines governing drug testing as well as the penalties imposed.
The cost of drug testing should be re-evaluated. It should be a three way split. The governing bodies should be contributing but then so too should national governments and here is the cruncher … so should the players. Drug testing relates to the athlete. They should show their full responsibility by contributing to the drug testing program.
National governments don’t want to contribute and say it is the responsibility of a national federation. That is not a positive view. If a national government is contributing funding to a sport then there are also responsible to make sure the sport is clean.
The players are just as responsible to show they are clean and that their sport is above board but players are probably reluctant to give up any of their hard earned money. However, that is a narrow minded view. It is important for the athletes to show their support for the program. Voicing opinions is one thing but putting their money where their mouths are is something else.
Of course the federations need to contribute but it should not be just up to them. The financial cost, as indicated, is very high and by being virtually the sole financial supporter means that funds need to be directed away from other aspects of the sport, like development.
The players have spoken about the cost aspect and keep saying money should not be a factor in weeding out the cheats, and that is fantastic to hear. But, if that is a genuine call from the players, then it is time for them to start helping with the monetary cost of drug testing with a percentage of their prize money going into the coffers of the program.
Tennis fortunately is a very clean sport but to maintain that incredibly high standard it enjoys there has to be a joint financial effort between the federations led by the ITF, national governments and the players. There has to be a concerted effort from all sides.