Karatantcheva stripped of French Open finish

Updated: January 11, 2006, 4:55 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press