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New York Times Q&A - Straight Sets

New York Times Q&A - Straight Sets

Andy -

After his four-set, fourth-round win over Denis Istomin, Andy Murray again spoke to Straight Sets about another topic important to him: the growing specter of doping across the sports world.

First, congratulations were in order.

Q.
You were named one of the “GQ Men of the Year” in London. Have you always considered yourself a fashion icon?

A.
No, I haven’t, and I still wouldn’t say that’s the case (laughs).

Q.
How did you win then?

A.
Probably because I did something for them earlier in the year, and on the front of the magazine, which came out just before Wimbledon, it said, “If you buy this, Andy will win Wimbledon,” or something. And then obviously, a few weeks later it happened, so.

Q.
So you made good on their promise then.

A.
Yeah (laughs).

Q.
On a different topic, one thing I’ve noticed that you’ve tweeted about a bunch in recent months is doping stuff that has happened in other sports — Asafa Powell, other runners. What makes you care so much about that issue, as it pertains to sport as a whole?

A.
Because of what’s happened the last couple of years, it’s a very difficult sort of position to be in for an athlete just now. If you have a sudden rise, people question it because of what has happened with some very high-profile athletes. And the doping program that we’ve had probably hasn’t been as strong as it needs to be. So yeah, I’ve been quite vocal about trying to get that improved and sorted, and I think they have started to take it more seriously.

It’s one of those where before, a few years ago, everyone was like, ‘Oh, having to fill out the whereabouts form for 365 days a year is annoying, and it is a hassle,’ and everyone was like, ‘We hate it, we don’t like it.’ But when you see what has happened in other sports, to protect your sport, and to make sure that nothing is going on, you need to have the best doping program in all of sports, really.

And it’s definitely changed a bit. I had a blood test on the Wednesday or Thursday before the tournament. I did one the Monday of the tournament starting, and I think they’re still blood testing the guys after the matches. So where we may have used to have done four or five blood tests in a year, max, I will have done — I did one after Wimbledon as well — I will have done three within a couple weeks at the U.S. Open, so it’s changed a bit.

Q.
Can a sport be free of suspicion in this age? Is that possible?

A.
I don’t know. I don’t really think it can be anymore because of what’s happened with some big athletes and cyclists. Basically, sport has taken a hit, and a lot of people have lost trust in it. So I think it takes a long time to build that trust back up. I believe in tennis, but the only way for people to see it as being a clean sport is by having the best doping program in sports. And there’s a lot of money in tennis, so we can definitely afford to have a good program.

Q.
You mentioned trust — how much is trust important within tennis, in terms of trusting that everybody else in the locker room isn’t trying to do anything to get an advantage?

A.
If you look at the people who have cheated, to get away with it, you need to basically have a sophisticated sort of program, and travel with a doctor who is going to make sure that you’re not going to fail tests at certain times. You don’t see many tennis players, just because of how much it costs to travel with a doctor, you don’t see many of them traveling with one, for starters.

But look, all the players, we see each other on a daily basis. When we’re at a tournament like today, we’re at the tournament for 14 hours, at the courts. It’s not like we’re sort of sneaking off in the middle of the day. But it is very important, like I said. When we’re done here, we’ll get drug-tested. We had one at the beginning of the tournament and before the tournament. If you’re getting drug tested three, four times in a two-and-a-half week period, I think that’s pretty good. It can’t get much better than that.

Q.
People talk about how tennis is more physical now, about how all sports are moving in that direction, faster, stronger. And cycling, especially, they go up the mountains on these types of courses more than they used to. Do you think that sport is being pushed to levels where cheating might seem more necessary than it did in the past? The bar has been set to nearly inhuman levels?

A.
I could see why people would think that. You know, the reason I trust tennis more than certain sports is because of how high the skill aspect of it is. If you look at a lot of the guys that over the years have been at the top of tennis, most of them have been top at 12 years old, top in the world at 14, 16, 18 and so on.

Guys like Sampras, Agassi, when they were 18 years old, they were winning finals of slams. You don’t see many guys breaking through out of the blue in tennis and being one of the best tennis players in the world because the skill element has to be so high, and it’s a sport you need to have learned from a very young age. So, yes, it has gotten more physical, guys have had to train more, and understand how to get in better shape.

Q.
But you trust all of that has been done within the rules? Or you hope it has?

A.
You never know. I don’t think we had a particularly good doping program before. It was pretty useless, I would say. And now I think it’s getting better, and the more that happens, you’ll see if there’s more failed drug tests and stuff.

A lot of the guys in tennis who have failed tests, it’s been through just utter stupidity rather than actually taking anabolic steroids and stuff, and testosterone, and all of the things that you see in the other sports. It’s been through being stupid.

Q.
Are positive tests, then, a sign that a system is working? If you don’t see any positive tests, is that worrying?

A.
I think there was not one positive test in the whole of the Tour de France, in cycling this year. I don’t know whether it’s a good or a bad thing. But all I can say is that the top 50 players in the world now, they do the whereabouts form, we’re starting to get tested more and more.

That’s really all we can do, and when guys are failing tests for cocaine or something, it’s just pure stupidity. When you start seeing the real serious stuff that people have been doing in other sports, if that was to come into tennis and you saw some failed tests for that, then that would be very worrying.