Hingis positive test deals further blow to troubled sport

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PARIS, Nov 2 (Reuters) The news that Martina Hingis tested positive for cocaine at this year's Wimbledon is the latest blow to a sport tarnished by several doping cases and allegations of match-fixing.

Former world number one Hingis, who revealed the positive test at a news conference yesterday but strongly denied having ever taken drugs, announced she was retiring from professional tennis.

Several high-profile tennis players have been involved in doping scandals, notably Argentine Mariano Puerta, the 2005 French Open runner-up.

A former top 10 player, Puerta returned to action last June after a two-year suspension for doping, his second ban.

Puerta, who had previously served a nine-month suspension, tested positive for the banned stimulant etilefrine after his loss to Rafael Nadal in the final at Roland Garros in 2005. He had tested positive for anabolic agent clenbuterol in 2003.

Another former top 10 player from Argentina, Guillermo Canas served a 15-month doping ban from 2005 to 2006.

Canas, who tested positive for the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide (HCT), said he had ingested the substance in error after receiving medication from a tournament doctor intended for another player's coach but failed to have his ban overturned.

The first big tennis name to make headlines for doping was Czech Petr Korda, who won the Australian Open and peaked at number two in the ATP rankings.

A few months after his Melbourne triumph in 1998, he tested positive for nandrolone following a match at Wimbledon and was handed a one-year ban which effectively ended his career.

Before Hingis spoke to the media on Thursday, tennis officials were more concerned with alleged match-fixing than doping.

The problem came under the spotlight in August when a match between Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and lowly ranked Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland was voided by British online betting exchange Betfair because of unusual betting patterns.

The governing bodies of tennis said earlier this month they had full confidence in the integrity of the sport but admitted there was a threat from potential match-fixing.

Several players, among them former Australian Open runner-up Arnaud Clement and fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra, the Wimbledon doubles champions, have since said they had turned down offers to throw a match in exchange of money.

''It is a dreadful disease which is a threat for tennis worldwide,'' French Tennis Federation president Christian Bimes said this week in Paris.

''We have to act straight away and be as severe with this as we are with doping.'' Reuters BJR VP0410

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