ITF suspends Gasquet after positive cocaine test

French tennis player Richard Gasquet was suspended Monday pending a hearing into his positive test for cocaine, an offense which could lead to a 2-yr ban.

updated: May 12, 2009 07:48 IST
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French tennis player Richard Gasquet was suspended Monday pending a hearing into his positive test for cocaine, an offence which could lead to a two-year ban.

The International Tennis Federation said an anti-doping tribunal would be assembled within 60 days to hear the case, which has already forced Gasquet out of the May 24-June 6 French Open.

Gasquet says he is gathering evidence to prove his innocence, despite both his "A" and "B" samples coming back positive for cocaine.

Traces of the drug were found in the 22-year-old Gasquet's urine sample at the Sony Ericsson Open, in Key Biscayne, Florida, in March.

"He's suspended until the end of the hearing," ITF spokesman Neil Robinson said. "We're now assembling an anti-doping tribunal. The ideal timeframe is within 60 days, but people have to fly in from all over the world for it."

French Tennis Federation director general Gilbert Ysern said the test was considered an in-competition control, meaning Gasquet could face a two-year ban if found guilty. A player who tests positive for cocaine out of competition would face a reduced penalty.

Gasquet has said that a separate test of his hair samples on May 7 showed no trace of cocaine.

"Richard is devastated by this announcement," said Ysern, who is also tournament director of the French Open. "On a human level, we can support him. If he did nothing wrong, we hope he will know how to prove it, but we are not his lawyer."

Gasquet, who was ranked seventh in July 2007 but has since slipped to No. 21, has played just five matches since pulling out of the Sony Ericsson Open before his second-round match against Albert Montanes of Spain.

Gasquet cited a right shoulder injury for the withdrawal and has since returned to action in Barcelona and at the Rome Masters, where he lost in the third round to Fernando Verdasco on May 1.

Former top-ranked player Marat Safin believed Gasquet may not be to blame for his positive test.

"Everyone makes mistakes," the Russian said at the Madrid Open. "I feel sorry for Gasquet. When you're at a party, at a huge table full of people having fun, it's absurd to have to watch what glass you're drinking from.

"Testing for doping is also becoming very intrusive. It gets to the point where you almost feel you should be calling the ATP to tell them where you are after you leave a party."

Gasquet, who lost to Roger Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2007, was considered a future star when he first arrived on tour with a one-handed backhand widely considered among the best in the game.

Martina Hingis was banned for two years early last year after testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player failed a test after losing to Laura Granville in June 2007.

Hingis, who has since retired, became the second WTA player suspended for cocaine after Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain was banned for three months in 2002.

Former top-ranked men's player Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek had positive tests for cocaine at the 1995 French Open.

That was prior to the introduction of rules to automatically suspend players following a positive second test. Both continued playing before eventually being banned for three months and ordered to return prize money and forfeit rankings points.