Roger Federer: Tennis Icon Right to Call for Biological Passports
Roger Federer believes biological passports should be the norm on the ATP—a notion that makes plenty of sense in this day and age where cheating in pro sports is prevalent.
Federer stated the following, according to the Guardian's Kevin Mitchell:
"A blood passport will be necessary [...] as some substances can't be discovered right now but might in the future, and that risk of discovery can chase cheaters away. But there also should be more blood tests and out-of-competition controls in tennis. I didn't get tested on blood after the Australian Open and I told the responsible people over there that it was a big surprise for me."
The 2012 Summer Olympics was the first summer games to utilize this comprehensive anti-doping measure, which is a "long term history of an athlete's physiology based on key markers in the blood," (h/t BBC's Matt McGrath).
World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey talked about the process and what it is supposed to do before the London Games, according to Sports Network, via the Los Angeles Times:
If someone thinks they're home free in 15 days time from some form of cheating here in London, they should hold their breath for at least eight years because the odds are they can be picked up at a later point in time.
While doping may not seem prevalent in the world of professional tennis, the suspicion is certainly there. Just this year, on Feb. 14, Czech tennis player Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was suspended for six months after she tested positive for sibutramine, a stimulant (h/t Bloomberg's Christopher Elser).
Pro athletes are under a tremendous amount of stress to win, and many of them will go to extreme lengths to get a leg up on their competition.
According to Mitchell's report in the Guardian, the current system in place on the ATP is nothing more than "window dressing," and the minimal amount of players getting busted over the course of the past 27 years bears this out as a true statement.
American James Blake came out in the summer of 2012 in an interview with USA Today's Douglas Robson, saying:
"In tennis I'm sure there are guys who are doing it, getting away with it, and getting ahead of the testers." Blake says he wants to believe it's a level playing field, "but I also am realistic with this much money involved, $1.9 million for the winner of the U.S. Open, people will try to find a way to get ahead."
Athletes in today's world have access to cutting-edge treatments—both legal and illegal. We've seen Lance Armstrong get exposed after exhaustive and expensive investigations have uncovered the truth of his wrongdoing.
According to Mitchell's report, the ATP only spends $1.3 million per year in drug testing—a paltry amount of money, considering the wealth the sport generates.
Utilizing biological passports would certainly deter athletes from doping, but more importantly, it would be a way of leveling the playing field and assuring fans that the players are clean. If every athlete were under the same scrutiny, being tested in exactly the same way, the sport would certainly benefit.
It's time for tennis to catch up to the times. It's time for the sport to utilize the best technology available to clamp down on those athletes who are cheating.
Should the ATP utilize biological passports to stop doping?
Roger Federer isn't the first man to raise concerns about this subject. Andy Murray has been calling for changes since last year. Perhaps now that Federer has championed the cause, those with the authority to make a positive change will move to fix an ailing system.
There isn't a good excuse not to make the best efforts possible to put an end to doping in tennis, and there isn't a better time to make the change than right now.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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