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Ulihrach likely to sue ATP
- Czech pleased after being cleared of drug charges

Prague: Czech tennis player Bohdan Ulihrach may sue the ATP Tour for lost income after being cleared of doping charges that kept him out of the game for the last nine months.

Ulihrach, who had protested his innocence all along, said he now wanted to focus his energy on the tennis courts and not the courts of law, but his lawyer said that all options were being considered.

“It is possible that we will file for lost earnings and damages to his good name,” Jiri Balastik told the Mlada Fronta Dnes.

The ATP, however, does not expect a legal dispute with Ulihrach, according to a report from London.

The governing body of men’s professional tennis earlier announced it had discovered that an electrolyte replacement product, or salt tablet, routinely given to players by ATP trainers may have been contaminated with the banned substance nandrolone (as reported in Thursday’s Late City edition).

The 28-year-old Ulihrach was one of seven players who tested positive for nandrolone between August 2002 and May this year, according to the ATP.

Ulihrach was banned in May for two years, fined $43,770 and docked 100 ranking points after being found guilty of doping. The ATP has now cleared him of the charges. The other six players are to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“Given the circumstances we reacted as responsibly as we could — we immediately investigated it — took the information that we had and disclosed it to everybody affected including Bohdan and his attorney,” Mike Miles, the ATP’s chief executive officer, said on Wednesday.

Miles said the ATP had not discussed the legal ramifications of the case. “Our energies have been focussed on how we can get him (Ulihrach) back to playing through entering into tournaments. We are talking to him about that and we expect a final decision by next week.

A delighted Ulihrach said: “I am extremely pleased that this episode in my life is now behind me so I can return to doing what I love to do most: play tennis”.

Ulihrach said he was keen to get straight back and would have renewed motivation. “I’m happy that it has been shown that I never took anything. This whole ordeal was a period in my life that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

Miles said he believed the situation had been handled with “integrity and openness” and defended the body’s anti-doping procedures.

“Mistakes happen and this one is a significant one but what matters most is how we respond,” he said. “In this case it is clear we dealt with the issue directly and professionally and applied all the appropriate resources. Fundamentally, I believe it’s been handled with integrity and openness. It demonstrates that our anti-doping programme is a first class programme and it works.”

He added that the ATP trainers who dispensed the electrolyte replacement product to the players were not to blame for what had happened. “We have excellent trainers. They are of a very high level professionally, they simply didn’t recognise this electrolyte as a supplement because it has been used by them effectively for 20 years.”

‘Big wake-up call’

Meanwhile, the Australian Sports Drug Agency (ASDA) says the ATP’s doping scandal was a “big wake-up call” for other sporting bodies and elite athletes. ASDA chief executive John Mendoza on Thursday warned sports world-wide to take heed of the ATP’s doping scandal.

Mendoza described the ATP bombshell as “a big, big wake-up call” for other sporting bodies and elite athletes. He said the influx of Olympic or government sponsored institutions around the world made it imperative for coaches and medical staff to ensure they received guarantees detailing the exact contents of supplements. “There’s a message there,” Mendoza said. “I am quite certain that there would be other sports, other institutes around the world, that have not been assessing this risk and putting in place the appropriate strategies.

“And they’ll be taking up on the ATP experiences very quickly, I would think,” he said.

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