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Wednesday, December 23, 1998 Published at 13:35 GMT

Sport: Tennis

Korda can defend title

Korda: Some remain sceptical about his explanation

Petr Korda has been cleared to defend his title at next month's Australian Open despite testing positive for steroids at Wimbledon.

Neil Bennett: Korda can count himself very lucky
Open officials say the Czech left-hander was tested following last year's final against Marcelo Rios of Chile and the result was negative.

Tournament director Paul McNamee said the International Tennis Federation's Independent Appeals Committee was satisfied that exceptional circumstances existed.

Ian Carter reports (BBC Radio 5 Live)
"But it is generally not an excuse if you didn't know, that's part of the fabric of any sport and players have got to be vigilant," he said.

Korda insists he has no idea how he came to take the banned substance nandrolone, which was identified following his test at last summer's Wimbledon championships.

But the Australian Sports Drug Agency has questioned Korda's claim.

Spokeswoman Vicki Kapernick claims nandrolone can only be injected and said: "It has a performance-enhancing effect and helps in muscle-building and recovery from injury while training."

Sports medicine practitioner Dr Peter Larkins said the story that an athlete did not know where a banned substance had come from had been heard too often.

He added: "Elite athletes have a lot of people wanting to help them and there is a lot of shaky advice around. Maybe he could have been that naive.

"It just doesn't gel with me, that he didn't know what it was, especially at that elite level."

Chris Gorringe: We're obviously very disappointed (BBC Radio 5 Live)
The International Tennis Federation confirmed on Tuesday that Korda had tested positive for metabolites of nandrolone.

He was stripped of ranking points and the £60,000 prize money earned during Wimbledon.

The ITF's Independent Appeals Committee upheld Korda's punishment. But it ruled that the player had been unaware he had taken or been administered the banned substance.

Korda claims vindication

Korda submitted the positive doping sample after bowing out in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

In a statement, he said he had been informed by the ITF on 1 August that he had tested positive and was issued with a Notice of Violation in October, against which he appealed.

Korda said he and his advisers had made exhaustive, but unsuccessful, attempts to find the source of the illegal substance.

"I wish to state categorically that I am not a drugs cheat and would never seek to obtain a competitive advantage over my fellow professionals by such means," he said.

"I am delighted that the Committee has vindicated me. This allegation came as a tremendous shock and caused considerable distress to me and my family.

"From a professional standpoint my performances since August suffered, as my recent results have shown. Whilst I am in the final stages of my career I still love the game."

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