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Murray calls for more blood testing

Andy Murray of Britain hits a return to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tourna
Andy Murray of Britain hits a return to Novak Djokovic of Serbia during their men's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tourna

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Olympic champion Andy Murray is demanding more blood testing in tennis to avoid the kind of damaging doping scandals that continue to plague cycling.

World number three Murray, runner-up at last month's Australian Open to Novak Djokovic, feels the sport's authorities need to invest more heavily in anti-doping programs, even if it means siphoning funds from players' prize money.

"I've been asked a lot lately if tennis is clean or not but I don't know how you judge if a sport is clean," Murray told reporters on Monday at Queen's Club in west London.

"If one in 100 players is doping, in my eyes that isn't a clean sport. We need to do everything we can to ensure that everyone competing at the highest level and below is clean.

"That comes with biological passports and more blood testing. I know the training that I do and I know what goes in and out of my body and I know from my side that I'm clean and I hope that's the same for all tennis players."

Doping in sport has come under close scrutiny following the Lance Armstrong scandal. The American cyclist was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles last year following an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Last month Armstrong admitted he had taken banned substances during all seven of his Tour wins.

Murray's comments come after 17-times grand slam champion Roger Federer said last year that the number of out of competition blood tests carried out in tennis had declined.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) runs the doping program in tennis but the 2013 budget of $2 million, paid for by the four grand slams, the ITF and the men's and women's Tours, is dwarfed by the prize money available to top players.

"There needs to be more blood testing," Murray said.

"Last year I got tested a lot especially during the French Open and Wimbledon and through to the U.S. Open but I think a lot of that was due to the Olympics.

"The only way we can improve the testing procedures is to have more blood testing. We need to spend money to do that but in the long term I think it would be worth it because more would come to watch sport, rather than just reading about doping scandals or match fixing every week.

"I don't know how much the ITF and ATP put money into drug testing but if it comes down to cost, if it means taking some from the players' earnings then that's what we have to do.

"Tennis needs to look closely after what happened with the Lance Armstrong situation. We don't want that happening. For my sport that would be terrible."

Murray's concerns come after the latest statistics for anti-doping in tennis, for the 2011 season, found that of the 2,150 tests undertaken, only 131 were blood tests and only 21 were out of competition.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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