Richard Gasquet, speaking in public for the first time since his suspension after testing positive for cocaine, said yesterday that the drug had been used by other people with whom he had spent the evening before his failed test.
Gasquet took the test in March after pulling out of the Masters tournament in Miami, having decided the previous day to withdraw because of a shoulder injury. The 22-year-old Frenchman said he had then accepted an invitation, along with three friends and associates, to join a table of about 15 people hosted by Bob Sinclar, a French disc jockey, at Le Set, a popular Miami nightclub.
In an interview published yesterday by L'Equipe, the French sports daily newspaper, Gasquet said: "One of the people present that evening has [since] told me that cocaine had circulated at our table. Since it was a minute quantity that was found in my urine – a mere trace which, I have since found out, represents less than a tenth of a line of cocaine – everything is possible. I know what did not happen. I repeat: I have never taken cocaine. But I don't know what did happen and I want to find out."
Gasquet, who is taking his own legal action in an attempt to prove his innocence, said that he would have left the nightclub immediately if he had seen cocaine being used. The world No 21 said that he had arrived at about midnight and drunk two glasses of alcohol, but added: "As ever, I kept a close watch on my glass. I always kept it in my hand. It would have been a mistake to have let go of it and I didn't."
He added: "Nobody takes cocaine on the tour. We're so scared of everything. When I take an aspirin, I call the doctor 10 times to make sure that I can take it."
Le Parisien, another French newspaper, published extracts of what it said was a statement that Gasquet had given to French police. The player was reported to have said that an "outside contamination" – which is being interpreted as a spiking of his drink – could have happened at the nightclub.
While most other players have been reluctant to comment on the Gasquet case, Rafael Nadal said he was convinced of the Frenchman's innocence. "You know what the world is like today," Nadal said. "When you go to a party, anything can happen these days. If you kiss a girl who's taken cocaine, anything can happen, and that's the truth. That's reality, and this can destroy your life or your career and it is most unfair."
Gasquet, who refused to comment on Nadal's suggestion but said he would tell the police everything, added that a separate test of his hair samples had shown no trace of cocaine. He also said that he had voluntarily taken a DNA test to make sure it was his urine sample that had been tested.
Even if he is banned – Gasquet is awaiting a hearing that could lead to a two-year suspension – the Frenchman insisted that he would return. "My motivation has never been stronger," he said. "I am innocent and I can't wait to start playing again. My career is far from finished."