French tennis player Richard Gasquet was suspended today following a positive cocaine test and will miss the French Open.
LONDON — French tennis player Richard Gasquet was suspended today following a positive cocaine test and will miss the French Open.
The International Tennis Federation expects to have a panel in place within 60 days for a hearing. Gasquet could face a two-year ban if found guilty.
The 22-year-old player is gathering evidence to prove his innocence despite two samples testing positive. He said a separate test of his hair samples May 7 showed no trace of cocaine. Cocaine traces were found in Gasquet's urine sample at the Sony Ericsson Open, in Key Biscayne, Fla., in March.
"He's suspended until the end of the hearing," ITF spokesman Neil Robinson said. "We're now assembling an anti-doping tribunal. The ideal time frame is within 60 days, but people have to fly in from all over the world for it."
The French Open, the year's second major, begins May 24 and the French Tennis Federation withdrew Gasquet's name after the provisional suspension.
Gilbert Ysern, director general of the French federation, said the test was considered an in-competition control, meaning Gasquet could face a two-year ban if found guilty. A player who tests positive for cocaine out of competition would face a reduced penalty.
"Richard is devastated by this announcement," said Ysern, also tournament director of the French Open. "On a human level, we can support him. If he did nothing wrong, we hope he will know how to prove it, but we are not his lawyer."
Gasquet was ranked No. 7 in July 2007 but has since slipped to No. 21. He has played just five matches since pulling out of the Key Biscayne event before his second-round match against Albert Montanes of Spain.
Gasquet cited a right shoulder injury for the withdrawal and has since returned to play in Barcelona and at the Rome Masters, where he lost in the third round to Fernando Verdasco on May 1.
Former top-ranked player Marat Safin believed Gasquet may not be to blame for his positive test.
"Everyone makes mistakes," the Russian said at the Madrid Open. "I feel sorry for Gasquet. When you're at a party, at a huge table full of people having fun, it's absurd to have to watch what glass you're drinking from.
"Testing for doping is also becoming very intrusive. It gets to the point where you almost feel you should be calling the ATP to tell them where you are after you leave a party."
Gasquet lost to Roger Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2007. He was considered a future star when he first arrived on tour with a one-handed backhand widely considered among the best in the game.
Martina Hingis was banned for two years early last year after testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player failed a test after losing to Laura Granville in 2007.
Hingis, who has since retired, became the second WTA player suspended for cocaine after Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain was banned for three months in 2002.
Former top-ranked men's player Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek had positive tests for cocaine at the 1995 French Open.
That was before the introduction of rules to automatically suspend players following a positive second test. Both continued playing before they were banned for three months and ordered to return prize money and forfeit rankings points.
Associated Press Writers Samuel Petrequin in Paris and Harold Heckle in Madrid contributed to this report.