Minister names Kuznetsova in positive test

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The Independent Online

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the United States Open champion, has tested positive for a banned drug, the Belgian regional sports minister Claude Eerdekens said yesterday.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the United States Open champion, has tested positive for a banned drug, the Belgian regional sports minister Claude Eerdekens said yesterday.

Eerdekens said the Russian player tested positive for the stimulant ephedrine after an exhibition match in Charleroi on 19 December. "One of four players in a December 19 exhibition tournament in Charleroi tested positive in a doping test," Eederkens, sports minister for the French-speaking community in Belgium, said in a statement. "The Sports Ministry wishes to point out that the athlete who tested positive for ephedrine is Svetlana Kuznetsova."

Rumours of the positive test surfaced at the Australian Open in Melbourne earlier yesterday and Kuznetsova, ranked fifth in the world, denied ever taking drugs. "I am not worried. I am definitely not using nothing to push myself up in the game," she said, adding she had been tested for drugs 11 times last year. "I'm pretty sure that everybody's pretty clean... because the anti-doping programme it doesn't allow us to take nothing."

The Women's Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation said in Melbourne they had not been informed of any positive test. Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian tennis federation, reacted angrily to the news and denied any drug-taking by his players.

"First of all, this Belgian sports minister has broken every ethical rule in the book by naming a player without any proof of wrongdoing, without any basic evidence," Tarpishchev said.

"We all know the basic principle in doping cases: if there is a positive sample, then they should notify the International Tennis Federation as well as the national federation within three days," he said.

"This is not the case here. As of today we have not received any statement from the doping officials, nor did the ITF. Today I called the ITF headquarters and they told me they know nothing about it. If Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] was behind the testing, then we would also have known something by now," Tarpishchev added. "Otherwise, all this looks to me like pure fiction and fabrication of the facts."

Kuznetsova beat the American Jessica Kirkland, 6-1, 6-1, in the first round of the Australian Open yesterday.

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