Greg Rusedski's career could be over, game, set and match. The British No 2 will be saved only if his lawyers can convince a tribunal due to be held in Montreal, Canada, on Monday that he took the banned steroid nandrolone unwittingly during a two-month period last summer after the ATP Tour's trainers were instructed to stop distributing possibly contaminated vitamin and nutritional products to players.
An athlete is responsible for what is inside his body, and the integrity of a sport is more important than any individual participant. The anti-doping mantra is simple and direct, and if the margins are narrow enough to trap the naïve along with the knaves, so be it.
Rusedski tested positive at an ATP tournament in Indianapolis last July. He registered a level of just less than five nanogrammes more than twice the level considered an offence. The penalty, a ban of up to two years, would preclude Rusedski from professional tennis until he was approaching his 33rd birthday. The injuries he has suffered in recent seasons have already taken a toll on the time remaining to him as a competitor at the highest level.
In his defence, Rusedski's lawyers may submit that the product used, possibly for rehydration, was to blame and that the product was from the batch supplied by the ATP trainers before they were instructed in May to stop distribution.
That may shift a degree of onus to the ATP, suggesting that their anti-doping process is also on trial. None of this would be particularly encouraging for the International Tennis Federation. This is an Olympic Games year and tennis is an Olympic sport.
It is a strange case: Rusedski and the "nandro-clones", which is how it was termed on one tennis website. Rusedski, who was injured for half of last season, is the eighth player to have tested positive since August 2002. And he contends that he is one of 47 to have given samples containing traces of the drug.
The seven who tested positive before Rusedski were let off after the ATP admitted its own trainers may have been to blame for unwittingly handing out banned substances in supplements or to treat players' problems.
Only Bohdan Ulihrach was named. The Czech player was initially banned for two years, fined £30,000 and docked 100 ranking points for testing positive. But he was later cleared when the ATP admitted its error.
The other six, who, like Ulihrach, adhered to the ATP's confidentiality clause, have remained anonymous.
Rusedski is something of a loner. While admired for his dedication and professionalism, he is not among the most popular players on the Tour. The stress of keeping the confidential test results to himself he heard that the A Sample was positive shortly before the United States Open in August and that the B Sample was positive as he prepared to do battle for Britain in the Davis Cup relegation play-off against Morocco in Casablanca in September began to show.
When he did confide in someone, the information was leaked. As the unsubstantiated rumours began to proliferate early last month, and Rusedski was threatened with being "outed", he chose to defend himself before any charge was confirmed.
One consequence of Rusedski's lengthy statement was paranoia in the locker-room. My colleague Kathy Marks discovered at the Australian Open that the players were afraid to drink anything but water or, in the case of Andre Agassi, to apply cream to a heat rash.
Meanwhile the ATP have continued to play the scene in secrecy, as if nothing had happened, and now we have a situation where one of the most publicised drug cases in tennis history is being dealt with in private. What can be guaranteed is that the legal eyes will be keen. Smirks about the names of Rusedski's lawyers Gay and Pannick will be wiped off faces once the QCs get to work. They are two of the most astute in the business; indeed, Mark Gay is more often to be found leading the attack on behalf of national and international governing bodies.
Nor is there any question concerning the credentials of the independent chairman, Yves Fortier. He is a Montreal QC with a global reputation, having presided over weighty matters such as international boundaries in a former role with the United Nations. The two other members of the panel, one nominated by the ATP, the other by Rusedski's lawyers, will be a doctor and an anti-doping expert.
"I'm feeling strong and confident in facing my tribunal hearing, as I know I am innocent," Rusedski said in a statement yesterday. "I am advised that the tribunal chairman, Mr Fortier QC, is very highly qualified in this area so I am confident of a fair trial.
"I am represented by Mark Gay, who is known as the lawyer for the prosecution in sports drugs cases. He was so convinced of the exceptional nature of this case that he agreed to represent me," Rusedski added. "I am driven by the fact that the seven other players with identical findings of the metabolites of nandrolone and the same unique fingerprint were exonerated.
"Since the initial shock when the test results were revealed I have gained strength from the overwhelming circumstances of this case and the tremendous support I have received from the public and my sponsors, Donnay.
"I expect a fair trial and hope for a swift verdict so that I can return to playing tennis and put an end to this extremely stressful period of my life." The tribunal may continue for two or three days. The chairman's report and conclusions will then be sent to the ATP, who will be responsible for issuing a statement after one or two weeks.
If the charge is upheld, Rusedski would have 21 days to lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. If he then wishes to contest the case further he could, like the Czech Petr Korda did in 1998, go the High Court.
The case timetable of events
From August 2002 to May 2003, seven players on the ATP Tour failed tests for nandrolone. It was also determined that at least 36 additional samples registered nandrolone but the levels detected were below the cut-off point.
All seven were let off after the ATP admitted its own trainers were to blame, having unwittingly handed out banned substances in supplements or to treat players' problems.
Of the seven, only Bohdan Ulihrach was named. The Czech player was initially banned for two years, fined £30,000 and docked 100 ranking points for testing positive for nandrolone. But he was later cleared when the ATP admitted its error.
A sample provided by Greg Rusedski at a tournament in Indianapolis on 23 July last year was found to contain nandrolone. He registered a level of just under five nanograms. Any level above two nanograms is considered an offence.
The result of Sample A was given to Rusedski confidentially shortly before the United States Open, which started on 25 August, where Rusedski lost in the first round to Gregory Carraz, an unseeded Frenchman, in five sets.
The result of Sample B was then given to Rusedski confidentially on the eve of Britain's Davis Cup World Group play-off against Morocco in Casablanca on the weekend starting 19 September. Rusedski lost in five sets to Younes El Aynaoui, the Moroccan No 1, on the Friday and teamed up with Tim Henman to win Saturday's doubles but was then defeated in four sets by Hicham Arazi in a deciding fifth rubber which was played over two days because of fading light. Rusedski did well to finish the match, having been put on an intravenous drip after play was suspended on Saturday.
On 8 January, Rusedski, under pressure from the media, confirmed that he had tested positive for nandrolone.
The drug nandrolone
Nandrolone is a steroid, a substance that can give an illegal advantage in terms of strength and endurance, writes Mike Rowbottom.
It is on the International Olympic Committee's banned list, and those testing positive for it face a variety of punishments.
British athletics has seen a rash of positive findings in recent years involving highprofile competitors such as the 1992 Olympic 100 metres champion Linford Christie.
Initial studies by an Aberdeen University research team and by Fifa, football's world governing body, indicated that nandrolone readings could rise to punishable levels through strenuous exercise.
Other research indicated a cause which a subsequent study by an IOC-accredited laboratory has confirmed, that nutritional supplements labelled as being clear of any adverse substances were, in some cases, contaminated with nandrolone at the point of manufacture.
The accusers the atp
For Mark Miles (right), the chief executive of the Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body of the men's professional tour since shortly after its inception in 1990, the Rusedski case is the latest in a catalogue of difficulties.
Beset by financial problems since the collapse of ISL, the television marketing company, and having been made to think again about an incredible threat to boycott Wimbledon and the world's three other major championships if the Grand Slams refused to bail them out, the ATP can hardly afford a scandal over their anti-doping procedures.
After Rusedski breached the ATP's confidentiality clause and confirmed on 8 January that he had tested positive for nandrolone, questions were bound resurface concerning the "secret six" players who had escaped punishment even though an analytical fingerprint suggested a common source of contamination.
An earlier ATP investigation, which was conducted by Richard Young, an anti-doping expert, had been unable to exclude a possibility that the contamination may have been an electrolyte supplement that the ATP trainers had provided to the players.
The ATP said that trainers stopped distributing vitamin and nutritional products in May 2003. Rusedski tested positive in July 2003.
The accused Greg Rusedski
Born: Montreal, Canada, on 6 September, 1973. A left-hander, he turned professional in 1991, and in 1995 decided to compete for Britain, where his mother was born.
Prize money: £5.3m, plus millions more from marketing.
Highest world ranking: No 4 (in October 1997).
Current ranking: No 101.
Singles titles: 13 Newport (USA), Seoul, Beijing, Nottingham (twice), Basle, Antwerp, Paris Masters, Grand Slam Cup, Vienna, San Jose, Auckland, Indianapolis.
Reached the United States Open final in 1997, making him the first British representative to participate in a Grand Slam men's singles final since John Lloyd at the 1977 Australian Open.
Awards: BBC Sports Personality of the Year, 1997.
Records: Fastest serve ever recorded (149mph), which he shares with the American Andy Roddick. Rusedski's record serve in Indian Wells, California, in 1998, was equalled by Roddick at Queen's Club, London, in 2003.
Wimbledon record: 1st round (1993), 2nd, 4th, 2nd, QF, 1st, 4th, 1st, 4th, 4th, 2nd.
Injuries: Returned to action at the 2003 French Open after an absence of nine months. Surgery to left foot in October 2002 was followed by an operation to the left knee in March 2003, after which he injured a shoulder.
Was put on an intravenous drip after hyperventilating during a match against Hicham Arazi, of Morocco, in the final rubber of Britain's Davis Cup World Group qualifying round tie in Casablanca in September 2003.
Surgery to remove a cyst from right foot in December 1999. Missed the first month of the 2000 season.
Sprained left ankle during the 1998 Stella Artois Championships at the Queen's Club, subsequently retiring in the first round at Wimbledon and remaining out of action for seven weeks.
The defenders Mark Gay QC and David Pannick QC
Mark Gay QC
Extensive experience in advising national and international sports governing bodies in disciplinary matters as a partner in the law firm Denton Wilde Sapte.
Presented the Football Association's case against Rio Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender. His company represented the FA in its disciplinary action against Mark Bosnich and instructed Manchester City in relation to Alfe-Inge Haaland's possible lawsuit against Roy Keane.
Gay represented the England and Wales Cricket Board in its request for England's World Cup match to be moved from Zimbabwe, and conducted an inquiry into the finances of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
Representing the International Association of Athletics Federations in a civil action brought by the 400 metres runner Butch Reynolds, Gay won in the US Supreme Court.
Gay and Yves Fortier QC, who is due to preside at the Rusedski hearing, have faced each other in the past.
Gay represented the IAAF in a confidentiality case against the USA Track And Field Federation at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with Fortier presiding. The panel decided that the USA Track and Field Federation was not required to divulge the information in question to the IAAF.
David Pannick QC
A leading judicial review barrister at Blackstock Chambers, Pannick was the independent arbitrator at Martin Johnson's appeal when the former England rugby union captain appealed against a three-week ban after punching Robbie Russell, of Scotland, during a match between Saracens and Leicester.
Pannick ruled that the jurisdiction of the RFU panel was valid. He dismissed the appeal made by Leicester and awarded costs of £13,000 against them.
He appeared on behalf of Wimbledon FC at a Football Association arbitration which secured their right to move to Milton Keynes.
Sports law is only one area of Pannick's practice, which also includes public law, human rights law, broadcasting and media law, employment and discrimination, the law relating to the European Community and the European Commission on Human Rights.
He has acted in many of the leading public law cases in the past 20 years, including Spycatcher, representing a wide range of clients, from the Reverend Moon to the Chief Rabbi, from Red Hot Dutch Television to the Lord Chancellor, from Mohammed Al Fayed to Lord Rees-Mogg, from Diana, Princess of Wales to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
Drugs in tennis the history
Drug Testing for male competitors was introduced at Wimbledon in 1986, when the samples were mixed up, making identification impossible.
The International Tennis Federation set up an official testing programme in 1994. In 1996, Mats Wilander, the Swedish former world No 1, and the Czech Karel Novacek tested positive for cocaine.
In 1998, Petr Korda, the Czech former Australian Open champion, tested positive for nandrolone at Wimbledon. Korda fought the case to the High Court in London before retiring from the sport.
The Argentinians Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria failed tests in 2001. Coria was suspended for seven months after testing positive for nandrolone and is suing a vitamin company; Chela was banned for three months. Seven tested positive for nandrolone from August 2002 to May 2003. All were cleared after the ATP admitted an error.
A few days before Rusedski broke the news of his failed test, it was announced that Mariano Puerta, of Argentina, had been banned for clenbuterol.
The arbiter yves fortier
The independent chairman of the tribunal served as Canada's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations in New York from 1988 to 1992, taking a leave of absence from his law practice, Ogilvy Renault in Montreal.
During his term at the UN, Fortier was Canada's chief delegate to the 43rd, 44th, 45th and 46th Sessions of the UN General Assembly. In September 1990, Yves Fortier was elected vice-president of the 45th General Assembly. From January 1989 to December 1990, he served as Canada's representative to the Security Council, and in 1989, he served as the president of the Council.
While in New York, Fortier was a director of the International Peace Academy and the United Nations International School. He is a member of the Executive Board of the International Association of Permanent Representatives to the United Nations.
In 1993, Fortier was appointed by the Security Council of the UN as chairman of Panel "C" of the Compensation Commission in Geneva, dealing with Iraq and Kuwait.
As a trial lawyer, he has pleaded important cases before all of the various court jurisdictions in Canada and before domestic as well as international arbitration tribunals.
He has also served as an arbitrator on many international arbitration tribunals, including the International Arbitration Court of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris, the London Court of International Arbitration, the American Arbitration Association in New York, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, and the Zurich Chamber of Commerce and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. In 1984, Fortier represented Canada before the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the Canada vs US Gulf of Maine case.
At the Rusedski doping tribunal, Fortier will be the independent chairman of a panel of three. The other two members of the panel will be a doctor and an anti-doping expert, one of which will be appointed by the ATP, the other by Rusedski's legal team.Reuse content