Tennis federation bans retired Hingis two years

1/4/2008 - Tennis

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

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."