Fri, Jan 13, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Teenage tennis star banned over doping

NANDROLONEAccording to sports daily L'Equipe, the 16-year-old Bulgarian had told the ITF that she was pregnant at the time of a failed drug test, but later suffered a miscarriage

AGENCIES , LONDON AND SOFIA

Bulgaria's Sesil Karatantcheva plays in her quarter-final match against Russia's Elena Likhovtseva in the French Open in Paris in May last year. The International Tennis Federation has banned Karatantcheva for two years after she tested positive for steroids.

PHOTO: AFP

Sesil Karatantcheva played her first professional tennis tournament when she was only 14 years old. At 16, she'll be serving a two-year doping ban.

The Bulgarian teenager twice tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and was banned for two years on Wednesday, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said. The ban is effective from Jan. 1.

Karatantcheva said yesterday that she would appeal the ITF ban.

"I'm going to appeal against the decision of the ITF at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland," she told journalists in Sofia.

Karatantcheva reached the quarterfinals at last year's French Open after beating Venus Williams in the third round. She tested positive after losing to Russia's Elena Likhovtseva on May 31 in the quarterfinals.

On July 5 she also failed an out-of-competition test in Tokyo. Both tests were treated as a first offense by an ITF tribunal which met on Dec. 14-15 in London.

Karatantcheva's results at Roland Garros will be nullified and she will forfeit her prize money and ranking points won since that tournament. Karatantcheva earned US$137,676 at the French Open, and had made US$128,897 since.

"The Tribunal determined that a prohibited substance [nandrolone] had been present in a concentration above the reporting threshold in both the May and July samples," the ITF said in a statement. "The Tribunal rejected the players defenses but determined that the two offenses would be treated as one single first offense for sanctioning purposes."

The ITF said Karatantcheva has three weeks to appeal.

French sports daily L'Equipe reported last month that Karatantcheva told a panel of three ITF judges that she was pregnant at the time of the test, but later suffered a miscarriage.

A pregnancy test carried out by a French lab on the player's urine sample, however, was negative, the paper said.

Karatantcheva is ranked 41st on the WTA Tour. She was the seventh youngest French Open quarterfinalist in the Open era.

The 1.71m tall teenager has never won a WTA title, but her showing at the French Open made her a player to watch. She lost in the second round at both Wimbledon and the US Open, however.

Before a third-round match against Maria Sharapova in Indian Wells, California, in 2004, the then 14-year-old Karatantcheva pledged to "kick her [butt] off" because of a perceived slight during training. Sharapova won that match and also beat her at Wimbledon last year.

Karatantcheva spends six months training in Sofia, Bulgaria, and the other half of the year in Sarasota, Florida, at Nick Bolletieri's Tennis Academy.

Both her parents are champion Bulgarian athletes, her father in rowing and her mother in volleyball.

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