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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 11:11 GMT
Tennis' roll of dishonour
Greg Rusedski
Rusedski's failed drugs test is not unique in the sport
Greg Rusedski can breathe easily after being cleared of a doping offence, but the British number two is not the first to be caught up in doping controversy in the sport.

Tennis authorities have repeatedly said the sport is relatively clean, although not everyone has shared that view.

In January 2003, Australian player Andrew Ilie said: "The problem is so bad that you might as well just let them use it and when players see people dying on court and exploding, then it's going to change their minds.

"People are just happy to sacrifice their health for three years of fame."

Ilie's claims were dismissed by a number of rivals on the men's tour but there have been enough positive drugs tests in recent years to show there is a problem.

The most high-profile case concerned 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, who also tested positive for nandrolone and was banned for a year.

And the Rusedski revelation came within days of news that Argentine Mariano Puerta had been banned for nine months, fined and stripped of ranking points for testing positive for clenbuterol during an ATP event last year.

Puerta is the third Argentine in three years to be banned for doping following Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria's suspensions in 2001.

Chela was suspended from the ATP tour for three months after testing positive for methyltestosterone.

And Coria was hit with a seven-month ban and fined 65,000 for having traces of nandrolone in his system during a routine drugs test.

Not all cases have been clear cut however.

From August 2002 to May last year, seven other players on the tour failed tests for nandrolone.

All seven were let off after the ATP admitted its own trainers were to blame, having unwittingly handed out banned substances in supplements or to treat players' problems.

DRUGS IN TENNIS
1986: Drug testing introduced at Wimbledon
1994: ITF sets up official testing programme
1996: Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek test positive for cocaine
1998: Petr Korda tests positive for nandrolone
2001: Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria fail doping tests
2002-3: Seven failed drugs tests. Players later cleared after ATP admit error
2003: Mariano Puerta banned for nine months for taking clenbuterol

Of the seven, only Bohdan Ulihrach was named.

The Czech player was initially banned for two years, fined 30,000 and docked 100 ranking points for testing positive nandrolone.

But he was later cleared when the ATP admitted its error.

And it is nandrolone that Rusedski has tested positive for.

Tennis authorities have been castigated in some quarters for not doing enough to eradicate doping and being too lenient on offenders to keep the sport's squeaky-clean image.

In 2002, the ATP carried out 800 tests on 290 players - an average of less than three tests a season per player on the men's tour.

Leading figures initially insisted that drugs would not help players' performance and drug testing only appeared at Wimbledon in 1986, long after other sports had introduced it as a matter of routine.

It was not until 1994 that the International Tennis Federation introduced more serious testing.

And in a bid to improve the sport's reputation further, the ITF signed up to stricter out-of-competition tests with the World Anti-Doping Agency.




SEE ALSO
Argentine Puerta banned
07 Jan 04  |  Tennis



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