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Karatantcheva stripped of French Open finish

1/11/2006 - Tennis

LONDON -- Sesil Karatantcheva played her first professional
tennis tournament when she was 14 years old. At 16, the French Open
quarterfinalist was hit with a two-year doping ban.

The Bulgarian, who beat Venus Williams in the third round at the
French, was punished after twice testing positive for the steroid
nandrolone, the International Tennis Federation said Wednesday.

She failed one drug test after losing at Roland Garros on May
31, then failed an out-of-competition test in Tokyo on July 5, the
ITF added.

Both tests were treated as a first offense by an ITF tribunal
that met Dec. 14-15 in London. The ban took effect Jan. 1, and the
ITF said she has three weeks to appeal.

Karatantcheva, who is in Bulgaria, did not comment. She and her
father, also her coach, were expected to speak at a news conference
Thursday. The Bulgarian Tennis Federation also declined comment.

Karatantcheva lost to Russia's Elena Likhovtseva in the quarters
at Paris. She was the seventh-youngest French Open quarterfinalist
in the Open era. Her results at Roland Garros will be nullified and
she will forfeit prize money and ranking points won since that
tournament. Karatantcheva earned $137,676 at the French Open and
$128,897 since.

The ITF said its tribunal "rejected the player's defenses but
determined that the two offenses would be treated as one single
first offense for sanctioning purposes."

Karatantcheva is the first female player to test positive for a
banned substance since Spain's Lourdes Dominguez Lino, who was
banned for three months after testing positive for cocaine in 2002.

In December, Argentina's Mariano Puerta was barred for eight
years for his second doping offense, in effect ending his career.
He was the first tennis player to receive a ban of more than two
years.

Karatantcheva, ranked 41st, has never won a WTA Tour title, but
her showing at the French Open made her a player to watch. She lost
in the second round at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Before a third-round match against Maria Sharapova in Indian
Wells, Calif., in 2004, the then 14-year-old Karatantcheva vulgarly
pledged to beat the Russian because of a perceived slight during
training. Sharapova won that match and also defeated her at
Wimbledon last year.

Karatantcheva spends six months training in Sofia, Bulgaria, and
the other half of the year in Sarasota, Fla., at Nick Bolletieri's
Tennis Academy.

Her parents are champion Bulgarian athletes -- her father in
rowing, her mother in volleyball.