Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Anti-doping agency clears seven players


Seven tennis players on the ATP circuit who tested positive for steroids were cleared of violations on "unsustainable grounds," a World Anti-Doping Agency report concluded Friday.

The 21-page report said the players' defense -- the nandrolone found in their urine samples came from supplements provided by ATP trainers -- was unfounded. It also said it WADA has no grounds to reinstitute any sanctions.

Mark Young, the ATP's general counsel, disagreed with report's conclusion, saying the "decisions applied sound legal principles to the evidence that was presented."

Of the seven players, only Bohdan Ulihrach of the Czech Republic was identified. Ulihrach was banned for two years on May 1, 2003, but reinstated two months later. The other six were let off without suspensions after hearings.

An eighth case, in which Greg Rusedski also was exonerated, was not covered by the report.

The tests were conducted between August 2002 and May 2003. They found seven positive cases as well as 36 more with elevated levels of nandrolone.

Young said the ATP was continuing to investigate the cause of the low-level nandrolone readings in an effort to determine the source.

The WADA inquiry, requested by the ATP, showed that cases continued to turn up even after trainers were ordered to stop distributing the electrolyte replacement supplements.

It said remaining tablets from bottles used during that period showed no traces of the drug.

"The consequence and the problem arising from the situation is that there are now seven cases where exonerations were granted on clearly unsustainable grounds and the exonerations may not be revisited."

The ATP has not accepted WADA's anti-doping code and the agency has no right to appeal the ATP rulings.

A report by Christiane Ayotte, whose Montreal lab tested the samples, said all the cases showed the same "analytical fingerprint" and must have come from the same source.

One of the players used that and other reports to show that the drugs did not come from his own trainer's supplements. The other six then used the same defense. WADA called it "highly unusual."

The supplements were withdrawn, players were notified to stop using any they had left over and the trainers were disciplined internally, the report said.

However, the ATP hearings and investigation were carried out too quickly and were not thorough enough, the agency concluded. None of the players testified under oath.

"Further information that has been made available to WADA during the carrying out of this inquiry reveals that there continues to be near-positive results with the same fingerprint," the report said.

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