SPORT

Venus Williams, Capriati express their misgivings

London July 3. Venus Williams says she wouldn't open the door of her home to let in drug testers. Jennifer Capriati says random testing is an ``invasion.''

Despite objections from two of the sport's biggest stars, the women's tennis tour said on Tuesday it will introduce out-of-competition testing this year for performance-enhancing substances.

The sport's international body, meanwhile, said it's ready to bring in blood tests for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO if the World Anti-Doping Agency deems them necessary.

The subject of doping in tennis has come to prominence during Wimbledon, with players and officials discussing what measures should be taken to combat use of banned substances.

WTA Tour spokesman Chris De Maria said the women's tour has not done out-of-competition testing until now because of `budgetary constraints.' But he said the tour will conduct testing `the remainder of this year and definitely next year.'

``It was determined recently that we had the budget and the need to do it to make sure things are on the up and up,'' he said.

Williams, the top-ranked player in the women's game and two-time defending Wimbledon champion, said she's not against out-of-competition testing in general but is opposed to no-notice testing.

``I don't think that's a good idea,'' she said. ``I think there has to at least be a notice normally. I wouldn't let anyone in my house if I were not expecting them. Showing up at the door - you kidding?''

``Actually that happened to me once,'' she added. ``Someone tried to get in the development, doing a drug test. If I weren't tested in the next two hours, I wouldn't be playing on tour. You know there's always someone at the gates trying to get in....

``Normally I tell the gate, `Tell them Venus moved to Siberia some months ago."

It was unclear when the episode occurred, whether it was in London or at her residence in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, or whether those who showed up at her house were legitimate drug testers or impostors.

Asked about drugs in tennis, Williams said, ``I don't think it's a factor at all.''

Capriati said she doesn't think any players use steroids. Capriati, a three-time Grand Slam title winner, expressed strong opposition to random, offsite testing.

``It's news to me,'' she said. ``I think that's a bit of an invasion. I don't think they have any right to kind of see what's going on inside your body, even if you're not doing anything.

``I've never heard of anything to be concerned about anyways. I don't see really what the point would be. ... I don't think that's something you have to get started, kind of dive into that.''

When told some male players have tested positive in recent years, she said, ``well, the guys are another story.''

WTA Tour's chief legal officer Tandy O'Donoghue said the tour will proceed with the testing programme no matter what the players think.

``Conducting out of competition testing is consistent with our rules,'' she said. ``The rule is in place. The rule is the rule.''

O'Donoghue said testing would be run by the tour itself, not outside sports bodies.

``I appreciate players having security concerns and we would use collectors that players are familiar with,'' she said. ``We can respect the players and their ability to have their time and still make sure we're enforcing the anti-doping programme.''

ATP Tour spokesman David Higdon said the men's tour already does unannounced, out-of-competition testing. He said 50 tests were conducted last year and 100 were scheduled for this year.

``These are absolutely no notice,'' he said. ``We just show up and take a test. It's part of the rules. If they avoid a test, it's considered a positive.''

Higdon said players fully support the testing. ``They are very adamant in making sure the programme is as tough as possible,'' he said.

Deborah Jevans, executive director of the International Tennis Federation, said ITF is waiting for a September 15 ruling of the World Anti-Doping Agency on whether blood controls or urine-only tests are needed to detect EPO.

EPO, or erythropoietin, boosts endurance by stimulating the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. It is considered among the most abused drugs in sports.

Under the current Olympic-standard procedure for EPO, athletes undergo a combined blood-urine test. If the blood screen shows abnormal levels of red cells, the urine test is used to confirm a positive result.

Jevans said she anticipates WADA will decide in favour of a stand-alone urine test, with no blood samples involved.

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