Nadal to sue ex-minister for drug slur

PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tennis star was accused of taking injury break in 2012 to cover up a positive drug test

LONDON • Rafael Nadal has confirmed he is suing the former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot for alleging he had skipped tennis tournaments in 2012 in order to hide the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Her comments had followed Maria Sharapova's public admission last month that she had failed a drug test during January's Australian Open.

Nadal, a 14-time Grand Slam champion, returned to his best form the past fortnight, winning tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and is back in contention to press for his 10th French Open title next month.

He said in a short statement on Monday: "I hereby make public the defamation lawsuit against Roselyne Bachelot, that I have filed today April 25, 2016 before the Paris law courts.

"This legal proceeding was instigated after Bachelot made offensive remarks last March on Le Grand 8 programme of French channel D8. In charge of the case is Maitre Patrick Maisonneuve, lawyer at the Paris bar."

Bachelot was quoted as saying after Sharapova's high-profile confession: "We know that Nadal's famous seven-month injury was without a doubt due to a positive drug test.

INTEGRITY AT STAKE

I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career.

RAFAEL NADAL, on his decision to sue former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot.

"When you see a tennis player who stops playing for long months, it is because he has tested positive and because they are covering it up. It is not something that always happens but, yes, it happens more than you think."

A furious Nadal had responded immediately, threatening to sue, but has taken legal advice before doing so.

When asked last month to expand on his answer, he said: "I'm going to sue her, and I'm going to sue everyone who is going to comment on something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.

"There is a couple of times I heard comments like this. This is going to be the last one, because I'm going to sue her.

"I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. Not more. A minister of France should be serious. This time is the time to go against her."

He added on Monday: "Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career.

"I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished.

"Should the tribunal consider there has been a wrongdoing and the sentence recognises the right to damages, any compensation will be paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France.

"On the other hand, I ask for total respect regarding the legal procedure just started and would like to express my complete trust in the French justice system who will be judging the legal case. I will not be making any further statement."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2016, with the headline 'Nadal to sue ex-minister for drug slur'. Print Edition | Subscribe