ITF drug testing to replace ATP's anti-doping efforts

LONDON -- The International Tennis Federation will take control of drug testing in the men's game starting next year.

The agreement with the ATP Tour announced Tuesday will create the ITF tennis anti-doping program, which complies with the World Anti-Doping Agency's code.

The program will start in January and run through 2010, covering about 600 tests a year at ATP tournaments. That's in addition to the 500 tests conducted on male players at events run by the ITF, including the four Grand Slam tournaments and the Davis Cup.

Players also face out-of-competition testing.

ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said he hopes the women's tour will follow suit.

"We believe that it's more effective to have a concentrated authority," he said. "We believe that a unified program under one management is in the best interests of tennis and we hope that the WTA Tour will soon join with us and the ATP to achieve this goal."

The ITF currently tests women players at Grand Slams, Fed Cup and ITF Women's Circuit events.

ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers described the new arrangement as "a model of cooperation."

"We maintain our rigorous position against doping in the sport, as our players and tournaments insist," De Villiers said. "This is a positive step. To us it is a logical step to integrate one program for all players."

Under the agreement, the ATP Tour will be responsible for educating players about the doping code -- a role Ricci Bitti hopes
will help prevent positive tests like those of American player Alex
Bogomolov Jr. and Austria's Stefan Koubek.

"Many cases are due to simple ignorance by the players," Ricci
Bitti said.

Bogomolov Jr. is suspended until Nov. 10 after receiving a
1½-month ban for testing positive for salbutamol at this year's Australian Open. The 22-year-old said he took the substance to
treat asthma, but the ITF ruled he didn't have the required
permission to use it.

Koubek has returned after serving a three-month ban for testing
positive for triamcinolon acetonid during the 2004 French Open. He
attributed the test to an injection he received for a wrist injury,
and the ITF accepted that he didn't intend to enhance performance.

"I don't think tennis has a real doping problem compared with
other sports," Ricci Bitti said. "But we need to be vigilant."

Argentine players Mariano Puerta, Guillermo Coria, Juan Ignacio
Chela and Guillermo Canas have failed tests and been suspended.

All have since returned to competition except for Canas, who has
appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn his
two-year ban for a positive diuretic test in February at the
Mexican Open.

Britain's Greg Rusedski was cleared of a doping offense last
year after a contaminated drink provided by ATP trainers led him to
fail a test in July 2003.