Men's tennis probably will be the next sport to institute a drug-testing policy for its players, with rules and guidelines expected to go into effect sometime during 1986.
After eight months of study, Marshall Happer, executive director of the Men's International Pro Council, plans to present a policy to the council next week that, if passed, would set up a program similar to the one being used by the National Basketball Association.
"We're not saying there is a problem with drug abuse in tennis, but we do think there is a need to have a policy in place if a problem does arise," Happer said. "I think sponsors, tournament directors and players will understand this . . . We're not trying to infringe on anyone's privacy. We're just trying to protect the game for everyone."
When Happer raised the drug-policy question last Sunday at a meeting of Nabisco Grand Prix tournament directors here, Matt Doyle, president of the Association of Tennis Players, said he believed the players would object to such a policy and saw no need for it.
But several tournament directors, among them Ion Tiriac, who coaches Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, said they believed that a drug policy should be in place as soon as possible.
"I understand the players wanting to have their rights protected and that's legitimate," said Bob Kain, director of the tennis division of the International Management Group, which operates two tournaments. "But in this day and age when drugs are such a big thing, eveyone in the game, players included, should want something like this. It can only help the credibility of the game."
If Happer's plan is accepted, at least one person will be hired to monitor tournaments worldwide on behalf of the council. If the person, someone with expertise in recognizing drug abuse, finds strong evidence that a player has been abusing drugs, the player could be subject to a mandatory drug test.
In the NBA, if a player voluntarily admits to drug use, he can enter a rehabilitation program at the league's expense and without loss of pay. The second time a player requests rehabilitation, the NBA will again pay for the program, but the player will not receive a salary. The third time, the player is banned from the league.
If the NBA, the Players Association or the team suspects a player of drug use, any one of the three can ask an independent arbitrator to intervene and decide whether a player should be subject to random testing four times over a six-week period. If the player is then found with drugs in his system, he is banned for life. A conviction for a drug-related crime would also result in a lifetime ban. However, the NBA also allows a banned player to petition to reenter the league after two years.
"That's the most likely thing we would do," Happer said. "But it's also possible we might do random testing. It depends what the council wants."
The council consists of nine members, three each elected to represent the players, tournament directors and International Tennis Federation.
If the council does not act on the proposal next week, it almost certainly will take action at its November meeting. Once that is done, the council and ATP would have to work out details that would be acceptable to the players.
"I think there is a lot less potential for abuse in tennis than in other sports," Happer said. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be aware of what's going on and try to be prepared."