Vic Premier: Anti-doping policy aimed at saving ‘lives’

Denying reports that a controversial Australian government policy is to “blackmail” Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Victoria’s sports minister has said that the newly-introduced policy is in part motivated by “a real desire to save lives.”

Nadal beat Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday in one of the longest matches in tennis history to advance to the final of the clay court season, but the stars are under a new anti-doping policy, one that will require national athletes to perform tests before playing a tennis tournament. One of the charges being made is that the policy, brought in to be effective in 2020, is actually used to blackmail the reigning No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world into sporting compliance, money.

On Wednesday, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews appeared on Sky News Australia and defended the policy, one he says was developed with the sport’s governing bodies and will be implemented in three years. “It is not blackmail, it is a health policy,” Andrews said. “It is not something that we didn’t want to put in place, we had an overwhelming feedback, from literally the whole of the sports community saying we need to have this in place, to save lives.”

The Australian has a medical exemption exemption system for players, but the International Tennis Federation and the WTA Tour say that the policy is fair and equitable.

The right to exemption was abolished in tennis at the French Open in 2005, and it has subsequently been in effect in professional golf, motor sports and equestrian sports. Similar programs were introduced in cricket, tennis and soccer in recent years.

According to Andrews, the plans are still being considered for NAB, an Australian sport that has nearly 30 national federations, a large portfolio of Commonwealth-subsidized courses and points system and a $200 million health and medicine budget.

“We have recognised that under the rules of sport there should be some robust response to the enforcement if we choose to do something,” Andrews said. “We are taking it to a new standard. There has been a lot of discussion in sport around what athletes are allowed to take and when they are allowed to take them. This is a new standard, a new standard that we are proposing.”

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