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Panel rejects Hingis' test claim

International Tennis Federation says the retired player's positive test for cocaine wasn't tainted and suspends her for two years.

January 05, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Martina Hingis' attempt to cast doubt on the drug-testing process was rejected Friday by the International Tennis Federation, which suspended her for two years for testing positive for cocaine.

Hingis, the former No. 1 who won five Grand Slam singles titles, retired a second time in November -- immediately after revealing that she had failed a test during Wimbledon last summer.

The fact that she is retired made the suspension moot, but the immense legal effort and subsequent two-day hearing in London last month were solely aimed toward clearing her name, not a return to competition.

The three-member independent tribunal rejected Hingis' claims "that there were doubts about the identity and/or integrity of the sample attributed to her."

Hingis, who first retired in 2002 because of injuries, was ordered to repay $129,481 and will forfeit ranking points earned at Wimbledon and subsequent tournaments.

Her U.S. representatives declined to comment when asked if there would be an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

At the time of her disclosure in November, Hingis had denied taking any drug: "I find this accusation so horrendous, so monstrous. . . . I believe that I am absolutely, 100% innocent."

The 46-page decision handed down Friday did produce some eye-opening information. Dr. Bruce Goldberger, a University of Florida toxicologist, noted on page 24 that the estimated level of the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine (42 nanograms per milliliter) "was such that it would go unreported" in many drug-testing programs, even the U.S. military, "which uses a screening threshold of 150 ng/ml."

In fact, the minimum cutoff sensitivity testing level set by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is 300 ng/ml.

But the ITF said Goldberger's evidence did not cast doubt on the reliability of the laboratory's analysis, and that Hingis was not able to explain how the banned substance entered her system.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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