Sharapova welcomes new anti-doping drive, happy for more tests

Russia's Maria Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004, made her return to competitive tennis at the Stuttgart Open last week following a positive test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open

Maria Sharapova, who is rebuilding her career after a 15-month doping ban, on Friday welcomed plans to nearly double the number of annual drug tests and ramp up funding as part of a fresh drive to root out tennis cheats.

The former world number one also said she was happy to be tested more.

The new measures come into effect on May 1 and players will be scrutinised via a biological passport programme, while more samples will be placed into long-term storage, allowing reanalysis, officials said.

The significant increase in testing up to an annual total of 8,000 samples (from 4,899 in 2016) is being backed by a 50 percent budget hike to around $4.5 million (4.1 million euros) in 2017.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner who is making her comeback in Stuttgart after a 15-month doping ban, backed the new measures announced by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

"I definitely welcome that -- I am not against it," said the 30-year-old, who tested positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

"We only have to give an hour slot to drug testing every single day of the year, but that is part of the job and if they test us more, that’s great."

The ITF says the move is aimed at weeding out more doping violators.

"Protecting the integrity of tennis is an ongoing priority of the governing bodies of tennis to ensure that tennis is and remains a clean sport," said ITF president David Haggerty.

"These enhancements will make a positive contribution to achieving that priority."