From the Sydney Morning Herald....more on the prohibited substance crisis.
Rusedski affair frightens all players: Hewitt
By Jacquelin Magnay
January 12, 2004
Lleyton Hewitt admitted yesterday that players feared they might unwittingly take banned substances supplied during matches but added he had complete faith the tour's trainers were dishing out only drug-free products.
Hewitt voiced his concerns on the opening day of the adidas International in Sydney after the tennis world was rocked by news on Friday that Greg Rusedski had returned a positive test to the steroid nandrolone.
Rusedski has claimed he is being singled out because 43 other players have tested positive to nandrolone that has come from the same source, a US supplier of electrolyte-replacement products that were used by the ATP's own trainers.
Tennis sources yesterday confirmed 36 players had been found to have nandrolone in their samples between August 2002 and May 2003, but at levels below what constituted a doping offence.
A further seven, including the Czech player Bohdan Ulihrach, had high levels of nandrolone and had been before an ATP drugs tribunal. All were cleared because of evidence ATP trainers might have inadvertently been giving players a contaminated electrolyte-replacement drink.
Hewitt said trainers employed by tennis authorities to supply drinks and electrolyte tablets to players during matches were trustworthy but the thought of unknowingly ingesting drugs supplied by them was a concern.
He said the seven players who were cleared last year were found innocent because there was a group of them. "That happened in one tour and yeah, it worries everybody," said Hewitt, who added he tried to control what he ate and drank, did not take supplements and had everything he took checked by doctors and tournament officials.
"If an ATP trainer comes on the court because you are cramping and says to take a tablet of electrolytes, well that is what ATP trainers are out there for . . . players can trust them. I would like to think you can trust what you are given."
The trainers stopped supplying the electrolyte-replacement product in May last year, two months before Rusedski gave his drug sample, in late July.
The British No.2, who was so stressed about the drug scandal his left leg shook uncontrollably during a short media address at Homebush Bay yesterday, faces a career-ending two-year ban if found guilty. He faces an ATP drugs tribunal on February 9 but is allowed to play until the tribunal hands down its findings.
Rusedski's lawyer, Mark Gay, told UK newspaper The Observer: "There are probably six players out there scared out of their minds that they will be dragged through this the way Greg is being. I am sure they are all innocent.
"There is no drug problem in tennis, the problem is with the ATP's administration. There has only been one proven case of nandrolone abuse in tennis in the past 10 years [Petr Korda in 1998, although in 2001 Guillermo Coria was banned for nandrolone and Juan Ignacio Chela was banned for another steroid. Last week, Mariano Puerta was banned for another steroid.] The scandal here is what the ATP have done, not what the players are doing."
Tennis officials said they could not release the names of six of the seven players who had faced drugs tribunals because they were found not guilty. Ulihrach was found guilty but later cleared.
"They all had their day in court, they convinced the independent tribunal and they were all exonerated and under ATP rules they are not guilty and there is nothing to announce," said a source close to the cases.
Gay told another UK newspaper The Sunday Telegraph he was unaware the ATP had taken the six cases to the tribunal stage.
"We would expect to have been told that by the ATP but we haven't been told that," he said. "If this is true, then it's really big news for us. That would indicate that this is fairly brainless.
"Why go to all that trouble if all you are going to do is to produce that same exoneration? Also, if you have identified the problem as being the ATP giving ATP players things . . . why waste time, money and effort? Why subject Greg to all this stress and strain?"
He said he would consider launching a compensation claim against the ATP if Rusedski was cleared of a doping offence.
"The thing I would then be doing would be asking for an awful lot of costs and I'd be thinking about commencing proceedings against them in the United States because it's crazy," Gay said.
"Greg has gone to considerable expense and been subjected to a lot of stress and strain, so if we show up and all they say is, 'Here's another one, bang, you're off', as a picture of futility it is hard to think of a greater one."
Yesterday, Rusedski would not comment on the case other than to quash rumours he was being ignored in the locker room. He refused to take questions, explaining he wanted to concentrate on his first-round adidas International clash with Argentinian Chela, who has previously served a steroids ban.
"I have been very encouraged by the reaction I have had from people," Rusedski said. "I have had nothing but support from people in the locker room - everyone has been very positive and supportive towards me."
Hewitt said he would not ostracise Rusedski and supported his decision to play until the decision of the ATP drugs tribunal in Montreal on February 9.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is investigating tennis but its ability to enforce any findings is limited. The ATP and WADA are yet to sign off on an agreement, with full compliance not due until August 1 this year.
WADA chief executive David Howman said the problem in tennis "may have nothing to do with trainers and electrolytes".
"We are very concerned that perhaps the conclusion that the electrolytes provided by the ATP trainers were responsible for the positive results is wrong and there is something else going on out there," Howman said.