Tennis: Korda to challenge ITF in the courts

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The Independent Online
PETR KORDA'S lawyers go to the High Court in London today in an attempt to stop the International Tennis Federation pursuing its quest to overturn a ruling by its own independent appeals committee, which decided not to ban the former Australian Open champion for a positive drugs test at Wimbledon last summer.

Korda is challenging the ITF's right to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne after completing its own anti-drugs procedure against him. On 21 December the ITF appeals panel fined Korda his Wimbledon prize-money (pounds 59,080) and deducted 199 world ranking points, but did not impose a statutory one-year suspension, citing "exceptional circumstances". Korda, who tested positive after losing to Britain's Tim Henman in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, said he did not know how the steroid nandrolone found its way into his system.

Although the ITF inserted the clause covering exceptional circumstances at the suggestion of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, its intention was to put the burden of proof on the athlete to show how a banned substance got into his body. In Korda's case, the ITF believes the appeals committee misapplied the regulations.

The failure to ban Korda upset many of his fellow players, some of whom voiced their objection to the leniency of the ruling when the 31-year- old from the Czech Republic went to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title.

Korda's defeat in the third round at Melbourne Park last Saturday, coupled with an earlier failure to make a successful defence of an ATP Tour title he won in Qatar, means that his ranking will fall from No 13 to around No 75.

Brian Tobin, the president of the ITF, is scheduled to attend an anti- doping conference organised by the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland next week and will cast tennis's vote in support of a minimum two-year suspension for those found guilty of class-one drug abuse.