Karatantcheva given two-year ban after positive steroid test

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The Independent Online

Tennis was cast in a murky light yesterday when the 16-year-old Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva was banned for two years for a drugs offence.

Rejecting Karatantcheva's explanation that she was pregnant when she tested positive for the anabolic steroid nandrolone, an independent tribunal found her guilty of using the performance-enhancing substance.

The teenager, who is coached by her father, tested positive at the French Open in Paris last June. She may have defeated Venus Williams in the third round at Roland Garros but she loses the £76,000 prize-money and world ranking points and will also forfeit ranking points and prize-money from the tournaments following the French Open.

The Bulgarian world No41 tested positive after losing to Elena Likhovtseva in the quarter-finals in Paris. She has three weeks to appeal to the International Tennis Federation.

Karatantcheva, the 2004 French Open junior champion, is one of the youngest players to be banned and the first female player to test positive since Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who was banned for three months after testing positive for cocaine in 2002. Although there is drug testing at junior tournaments, no junior player has ever tested positive at one of those events.

Karatantcheva, who seemed to have a bright future in tennis, has three weeks to decide whether to accept the ruling or mount an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Karatantcheva had created a controversy in 2004 after an altercation in practice with Maria Sharapova in Indian Wells ended with the Bulgarian vowing to "kick her [Sharapova's] ass". Sharapova responded by routing her opponent 6-0, 6-1 in the second round of Wimbledon this year.

Mariano Puerta, 27, of Argentina, was banned for eight years after testing positive for the banned stimulant eltefrine after losing to Rafael Nadal, of Spain, in the French Open men's singles final. It was Puerta's second drugs offence.

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