Rusedski is made to wait for tribunal's drugs verdict

British No 2 has option to keep playing as ATP promises swift response once report is received
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The Independent Online

Greg Rusedski is free to play for at least two weeks. It will take that long for the verdict of an independent tribunal into the British No 2's positive test for the banned steroid nandrolone, held here on Monday, to be decided and the report to be faxed to the ATP, the governing body of the men's professional tennis tour.

Greg Rusedski is free to play for at least two weeks. It will take that long for the verdict of an independent tribunal into the British No 2's positive test for the banned steroid nandrolone, held here on Monday, to be decided and the report to be faxed to the ATP, the governing body of the men's professional tennis tour.

That means Rusedski will be able to compete, if he still has a mind to, in next week's ATP tournament in Rotterdam, where his name is on the entry list. He missed an event in Milan this week in order to attend the private drugs hearing that will decide if he is to be banned for up to two years.

Micheline Corriveau, the administrative assistant to the tribunal's chairman, Yves Fortier, a Montreal QC, outlined the time scale of events yesterday. She explained: "Mr Fortier is away on business for the rest of the week. He is back next week, and then has to speak again with his colleagues before the tribunal can be concluded and the report written."

The ATP, who organised the tribunal, promised last night that there would be no delay in announcing the verdict once it was received. "There will be no sitting on it," said David Higdon, the ATP's vice-president of corporate communications.

Rusedski, who broke the ATP's confidentiality clause last month by confirming, under media pressure, that he had tested positive for nandrolone during a tournament in Indianapolis last summer, arrived back in London from Montreal yesterday morning.

He said he had no idea when he was going to hear the verdict but was "cautiously optimistic." He added: "I think things went fairly, but we'll have to wait and see."

Rusedski and his lawyers, Mark Gay QC and David Pannick QC, contended that Rusedski was one of 47 players from the top 120 on the ATP Tour whose samples demonstrated elevated levels of nandrolone showing the same analytical fingerprint.

Thirty-six were below the two nanograms level that constitutes an offence. 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.

The ATP said trainers stopped distributing vitamin and nutritional products in May 2002. Rusedski tested positive for five nanograms, which is more than twice the designated limit, on 23 July 2003.

Rusedski said he subsequently learned that since July three other new cases had come to light which had also demonstrated elevated levels of nandrolone and had also demonstrated the common analytical fingerprint.

Having vowed to fight his case "to the bitter end," Rusedski would have 21 days to lodge an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, if the verdict goes against him. He would not be able to play during this time.

Likewise, the ATP could go to the CAS if they lose the case. It would be the first instance of an ATP appeal to CAS, although the International Tennis Federation took Petr Korda to the CAS after the Czech former Australian Open champion tested positive for nandrolone at Wimbledon in 1998, and Korda was subsequently suspended.

While Rusedski waits to hear his fate, the World Anti-Doping Agency are in the course of conducting an investigation into the ATP's handling of the cases of the seven players who were exonerated before Rusedski tested positive.

Wada, whose headquarters are here in Montreal, were invited by the ATP to attend the Rusedski tribunal as observers and were disappointed when Rusedski refused to have them there. Both sides involved in a case must agree for third parties to attend.

"It would have been helpful to have been at the hearing," said Frederic Donze, a Wada spokesman. "It could have shed light on new elements and facts for our report. We regret not being there, but have to accept it. We intend to make our report public. It will be ready in a question of weeks."

Wada are perplexed at how the ATP threw out seven cases after the players argued that the cause might have been the tablets given to them by the ATP and the ATP agreed they might have been responsible. "Maybe it happened," Dick Pound, Wada's chairman, has said, "but it was all accepted at tremendous speed."

The ITF signed up to Wada on 1 January, and the women's tour, the WTA, and the ATP have indicated that they intend to be fully compliant.

The ATP's statistics for 2003 show that Rusedski was tested at three tournaments last year: Indianapolis, Washington DC, and Montreal. He was not tested out of competition and had no blood tests.

More tests were carried out by the ATP ­ 1,350 on an average of 36 per cent of players ­ than in any previous year. These included 176 blood tests for EPO. There were more than 70 out-of-competition tests ­ 20 conducted by Wada. There was testing at 40 men's events, including ATP and Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup ties.

Players in the top 10 were tested, on average, 13.9 times ­ up from 8.6 in 2002. Players in the top 50 were tested 9.7 times ­ up from 5.6 the previous year.

The ATP also confirmed that tests had been carried out at a number of this year's tournaments.

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