INDIAN WELLS • Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal has hit back at a claim that he faked an injury in 2012 to cover up a failed drug test.
The 14-time Grand Slam winner said on Saturday that it was unfathomable that someone would accuse him of using a false injury to try and escape the wrath of tennis' anti-doping officials.
"Me?" he asked. "You can ask the ITF (International Tennis Federation), you can ask Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency), you can ask everybody."
Nadal has never failed a drug test in his many years on the ATP Tour and has always vehemently denied ever using a banned substance.
"I never did and I will never do and I don't want to talk about that again," he said on Saturday night after his doubles loss at the hardcourt tournament at Indian Wells.
Roselyne Bachelot, France's sports minister between 2007 and 2010, claimed on Friday that Nadal had faked an injury in 2012, when he missed the final six months of the season due to knee problems, to hide a positive drug test.
Commenting on Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova's positive test, Bachelot, who has a daily slot on a talkshow on D8 television, said Nadal's "famous injury" was "certainly due to a positive control".
"When you see a tennis player stopping for months, it's because there's been a positive control," she said, adding the wish that Sharapova's admission that she had tested positive for meldonium would open "a new era of transparency in a magnificent sport".
Nadal said he wants "justice" - his name cleared and for people to stop pointing fingers at him.
"I have been working so hard during the whole of my career to have the success that I have and now is the moment to do justice. I am tired of that and I want justice," he said.
The Spaniard said that he was pleased to receive support from sports organisations, sports personalities, fans and family who have rushed to his defence.
"Just thanks for the support from the people," he said.
"It is great to see the huge support from the world of sport."
The Spanish Olympic committee termed the accusation "baseless" and said Nadal had "undergone countless anti-doping tests, always successfully".
The ITF called Bachelot's statement "not only surprising but also false".
Spanish football club Real Madrid's coach Zinedine Zidane, a French football great, launched a staunch personal defence of Nadal, saying "he is a gentleman and a person that has shown values".
Real also released a statement supporting Nadal, while his uncle Toni Nadal, who is also the player's coach, called Bachelot "an imbecile" and said he is considering legal action against the former minister.
Nadal hopes that, with the support he has received, he can now put the matter to bed.
"Believe me, our sport is clean," he said. "If everybody is doing something wrong, then the people go to the justice and go on trial and then the judge decides. Our sport is not a sport that covers up for people doing negative things. I am tired of all of this."
But Bachelot was not backing down, telling Le Monde that she was only "repeating comments that are widespread in the tennis world and the press".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON