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Rusedski welcome at Australian Open

January 09, 2004 11:14 IST

Greg Rusedski will take his place in the Australian Open later this month, despite testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone, the Grand Slam's tournament director said on Friday.

Just hours after the Canadian-born British number two admitted he had tested positive for the drug during the RCA Championships in Indianapolis last July, Australian Open chief Paul McNamee said the player is still welcome at Melbourne Park.

"The Australian Open prides itself on welcoming any eligible player to Melbourne Park, and Greg certainly deserves that," McNamee told reporters at Perth's Hopman Cup.

"He hasn't been found guilty or sanctioned ... we know there's been an initial infringement but until the hearing -- where he will be either found guilty or, as Greg believes, will be found innocent -- there's no sanction on him at all. Those are the rules of tennis and under those rules he is able to play.

"If Greg hadn't spoken about this we wouldn't even know about it now. He is certainly welcome in Melbourne."

Rusedski, who has suffered a succession of knee, foot and back injuries in the last couple of years, revealed on Thursday that he had returned a positive test, but says he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

"In response to media inquiries I confirm that I have been advised by the ATP anti-doping administrator that a sample I provided tested positive for a low concentration of nandrolone metabolites," a statement said.

"I wish to make it clear that I do not and never have taken performance-enhancing drugs.


"This is a very complex situation which, once understood, will clearly demonstrate my total innocence.

"There is a hearing to be held in Montreal on February 9 which I shall attend. I fully expect to be found innocent."

The 30-year-old has been playing this week in the Australian men's hardcourt championship in Adelaide but was knocked out 6-2, 6-2

by France's Cyril Saulnier in Thursday's second round.

Rusedski was scheduled to fly into Sydney on Friday to take part in next week's Sydney International, the final warm-up event for the Open which begins on January 19.

"He is eligible to play and at this stage he is still entered," tournament spokesman Craig Gabriel said.

The news of Rusedski's positive test comes a day after Argentine Mariano Puerta was banned for nine months, fined and stripped of ranking points for testing positive for clenbuterol during an ATP event in Chile last year.

Puerta was the third Argentine in three years to be banned for doping following Juan Ignacio Chela and Guillermo Coria's bans in 2001.

Chela was suspended for three months after testing positive for methyltestosterone, a prohibited steroid.

Later that year Coria, now ranked world number five, was suspended for seven months and fined $98,500 after testing positive for nandrolone.

Last July, Czech Bohdan Ulihrach was cleared after being suspended for testing positive for nandrolone.

The ATP admitted an electrolyte replacement product routinely given to players by Tour trainers may have been contaminated by nandrolone.

Fellow Czech Petr Korda, who was found to have used nandrolone at the 1998 Wimbledon championships, was finally banned for a year after protracted appeals.

Rusedski, who shares the world record fastest serve at 149 mph, was out of action for almost eight months after the 2002 U.S. Open, recovering from foot and knee surgery.

Muscle spasms in his back and right arm also delayed his comeback until the French Open last May.

A runner-up at the U.S. Open in 1997, Rusedski managed to compete in just nine Tour-level events last year.

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