MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Novak Djokovic slammed Lance Armstrong’s long-delayed doping admissions, saying the seven-time Tour de France winner is a disgrace to cycling and “should suffer for his lies.”
At the same time, the No. 1-ranked man in tennis says the drug testing program in his sport is “good,” while conceding that for the last six months he hasn’t had a blood test in the anti-doping program.
“I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,” Djokovic said of Armstrong after his straight-set win over Radek Stepanek. “It would be ridiculous for him to decline and refuse all the charges because it has been proven. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story.”
The Armstrong doping saga also raised questions over drug testing in tennis, and Djokovic said he supported the International Tennis Federation’s current program.
“At least from my perspective, it’s really good,” he said, outlining the current regime where tennis players have to give anti-doping authorities details of their whereabouts each day, in case they’re required for out-of-competition testing.
Djokovic admitted that the blood tests that can detect the presence of EPO, a known oxygen booster in the blood which could help a tennis player cope better in long rallies and extended matches, have been a rarity for him lately.
He was asked to respond to reports that ITF records show that in 2011, only 18 blood tests were taken of the top players.
“Yeah, I wasn’t tested with blood for last six, seven months,” Djokovic said. “It was more regular … two, three years ago. I don’t know the reason why they stopped it.”
Maria Sharapova said after her win over Venus Williams later Friday that the Armstrong revelations are “just a really sad story, sad for that sport.”
“I’m happy that our sport is as clean as it can be and that we’re constantly tested,” she said. “So as long as we’re getting tested, whatever it takes, urine, blood, we’re all here to make the sport as clean as it can be.”
Djokovic also said he’s confident of the integrity of tennis.
“I believe tennis players are (among) the cleanest athletes in the world,” Djovovic said. “So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing.”
SILVER LININGS: No American men reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the second consecutive year, but Sam Querrey doesn’t think it’s necessarily a reflection on the state of American tennis.
The top American player, No. 13 John Isner, pulled out before the tournament began with a knee injury and veteran Mardy Fish, currently ranked 27th, skipped the Australian Open as he continues to recover from heart problems.