Hingis claims innocence after positive test for cocaine
In an out-of-nowhere end to Martina Hingis' comeback, the five-time Grand Slam champion revealed Thursday she tested positive for cocaine at Wimbledon and will retire for a second time rather than fight what she called a "horrendous" accusation.
"I am frustrated and angry," the 27-year-old Hingis said at a news conference in Zurich, Switzerland, her voice breaking as she fought back tears. "I believe that I am absolutely, 100 percent innocent."
She read a prepared statement ending with the vow, "I have never taken drugs," then left without taking questions.
WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said he recently found out about Hingis' doping test from the player's representatives -- word had not reached him through official channels because it's an ongoing case in which a hearing has yet to be held.
Although the formerly No. 1-ranked Hingis said she's retiring in part because she doesn't want to spend years dealing with the legal process, Scott said he expects the case to continue.
"Like a lot of Martina's fans and friends and colleagues, [I am] saddened," Scott said in a telephone interview. "She's a great legend, one of the most well-liked players on the tour. But at the same time, I'm ... also mindful that the player has to be given the presumption of innocence until the process plays out until the end."
Hingis tested positive June 29, the day she lost in straight sets to Laura Granville of the United States in the third round at Wimbledon. That was her first tournament after missing 1 1/2 months with hip and back injuries.
"I just didn't want to miss Wimbledon," Hingis said at the time. "Probably at the end of the day, it wasn't, like, the smartest thing."
Although doping charges usually are announced by a sports league or event, athletes are told if a sample tests positive. A second, backup sample then is tested. Mario Widmer, Hingis' manager, said she learned of the first positive test result in mid-September and the second two or three weeks later.
"I find this accusation so horrendous, so monstrous, that I have decided to confront it head-on by talking to the press," Hingis' statement said.
She said she hired an attorney who found "various inconsistencies" with the urine sample from Wimbledon.
"He is also convinced that the doping officials mishandled the process and would not be able to prove that the urine that was tested for cocaine actually came from me," she said.
Tennis doping tests are handled by an independent agency, Sweden-based International Doping Tests & Management, Scott said.
Doping expert Dr. Gary Wadler said urine tests generally can detect cocaine up to five or six days after its use.
Statement released by Martina Hingis (through her agent) in response to testing positive for cocaine during Wimbledon. Statement
"They say that cocaine increases self-confidence and creates a type of euphoria. I don't know," Hingis said. "I only know that if I were to try to hit the ball while in any state of euphoria, it simply wouldn't work. I would think that it would be impossible for anyone to maintain the coordination required to play top class tennis while under the influence of drugs."
Wadler, who used to be the U.S. Open's head doctor, said that although cocaine is generally not thought of as a performance-enhancing drug, it theoretically could help.
"The acute effects of cocaine probably, overall, would impair and not enhance performance. But within a two-hour window, you may actually have some enhancement -- overcoming fatigue, reaction time, and so on," said Wadler, an associate professor of medicine at New York University and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Hingis said her family and management suggested she take a test that examines a person's hair to check for cocaine use and the result was negative, although she didn't say when or where she was tested. Wadler said hair tests usually are not used in sports because they don't necessarily show recent drug use.
In tennis, a first offense for cocaine draws a two-year suspension.
Only one woman has been suspended by the WTA because of cocaine: Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain in 2002. Two men, former No. 1 Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek, were banned after testing positive for the drug at the 1995 French Open.
Thursday's stunning retirement is not the first time Hingis walked away from the sport she once ruled, although the circumstances were far different. In 2002, she quit because of a series of foot and leg injuries and missed three years' worth of majors.
When she returned to the circuit full-time in 2006, Hingis reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals, won two smaller tournaments and finished the year ranked No. 7.
This season was more difficult, and she was ranked No. 19 this week.
At the height of her powers, Hingis was brilliant at controlling points and working every angle on a court. Nicknamed "The Swiss Miss," she became the youngest major champion of the 20th century when she won the 1997 Australian Open at 16, and later that year she became the youngest woman to top the rankings.
She went on to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that season, too, coming within a loss in the French Open final of a calendar-year Grand Slam.
"My weapon on the tennis court is and always was one single thing: the game, the ingenuity on court," Hingis said. "And for this style of tennis, there is only one performance enhancer -- the love of the game."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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