Drug test pair to take ITF to court

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The Independent Online

Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek said yesterday they would be taking legal action against the International Federation in the United States and London over allegations of drug abuse.

In a statement the two players accused the London-based ITF of smearing them by leaking "false" information, showing that they tested positive for cocaine at the French Open last year.

The test results were first reported last Sunday but had been kept quiet while the players appealed. "We have taken legal steps against ITF at the High Court in London. More legal action against ITF, their leaders and other officials can be expected in the United States," the players said.

"There is a scandal here. But it is not about drug abuse. Instead, it is a scandal about ITF smearing two top athletes just as the accusations against them were to be unveiled as false."

The players claimed the ITF had informed them of the positive tests, but had not given them a fair chance to defend themselves. They alleged the ITF had refused to provide evidence on which the charges were based.

"The ITF ignored, in a shocking manner, the players' fundamental rights and caused their reputation enormous harm," added the players, who successfully underwent lie detector tests. The ITF has not commented.

Monica Seles pulled out of the doubles to concentrate on the singles at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo yesterday. She had entered the doubles with local favourite Kimiko Date, the world No 6.

Of concern to the tournament was a newspaper report from Melbourne that a caller had threatened Seles' life before she won the Australian Open. Police are investigating a threat.

Seles made no reference to the report in announcing at the last minute that she was pulling out of the doubles to protect her injured shoulder. A statement from Victoria police said they had been alerted to a security threat made against an unnamed player during the Australian Open and extra police had been assigned to tighten security.

Seles plays her first singles match today against Irina Spirlea, of Romania. In the first round yesterday attention focussed on 15-year-old Martina Hingis' 6-3, 6-4 defeat of former world No 3 - now No 7 - Gabriela Sabatini. The Argentinian looked to be recovering as she took a 3-1 lead in the second set, but the Swiss player steadied and fought back to win.