Tennis federation bans retired Hingis two years

Updated: January 4, 2008, 8:58 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Martina Hingis scribbled the phrase, "All good!" in the comment box on her doping control form at Wimbledon. Six months later, those two words couldn't be further from the truth.

The five-time Grand Slam champion was banned from tennis for two years and, perhaps of more significance, her reputation was tarnished Friday, when it was announced she was found guilty of testing positive for cocaine at the All England Club.

A three-person, independent tribunal flatly rejected Hingis' defense, calling it "a simple and straightforward case." She can appeal the ruling, but her manager said she won't.

The failed drug test after Hingis' loss to Laura Granville on June 29 at Wimbledon came to light Nov. 1. That's when the 27-year-old Hingis choked back tears at a news conference while revealing she tested positive for cocaine and said she would retire from the sport she once ruled.

That day, she called the accusations "so horrendous, so monstrous," and added, "I believe that I am absolutely, 100 percent innocent."

There were no such protestations Friday, when the International Tennis Federation put out word that the anti-doping tribunal ruled in its favor. Hingis' agent did not respond to e-mail and telephone messages requesting comment.

"Since Martina has retired from competitive sports, it makes no sense for her to challenge the judgment," manager Mario Widmer said in Switzerland. "She just isn't going to play anymore."

Hingis got some support from Venus Williams, a six-time Grand Slam title winner and current Wimbledon champion.

"I like Martina. I think she's a nice girl. I was shocked with everyone else," said Williams, who is playing an exhibition tournament in Hong Kong. "For me, personally, I give her the benefit of the doubt."

The suspension runs from Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2009, and Hingis' results at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and three smaller tournaments last year were wiped out, meaning she must forfeit $129,481 in prize money plus her ranking points.

In the 46-page decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, the tribunal wrote that Hingis "reiterated her denial that she had ever knowingly taken cocaine," and "asserted cocaine is a ubiquitous substance which can easily be present in the body through contamination, for example by handling banknotes."

Her side also denied that the sample that tested positive was the sample provided by her and presented seven specific criticisms of the drug-testing process.

But, the decision said, "the force of the case against the player was overwhelming and the tribunal's task was ultimately quite simple."

The ruling outlines the drug-testing process and provides a minute-by-minute account of what happened when Hingis provided her sample at Wimbledon -- a result of a random draw that determined the loser of her third-round match against Granville would be tested. Among the details: Hingis wrote "All good!" before signing her name on the doping control form.

Wimbledon 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."

The former No. 1-ranked player, who was nicknamed "The Swiss Miss," quit tennis in 2002 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 at the end of last season.

At the height of her powers, Hingis was brilliant at controlling points and working every angle on a court. She was 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.

Now, however, her resume also will include a drug suspension.

"Obviously it's going to be an element of her record and her legacy that I'm sure she hopes wouldn't be there and, I guess, to some degree does take away something from all of her great accomplishments," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said in a telephone interview. "Having said that, her record is so stellar, the warmth that she enjoys from so many fans around the world ... runs very deep, and over time, I don't think this is going to have a very detrimental effect on her legacy."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press