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Nielsen ponders drugs ban appeal

Written by: Staff

SINGAPORE, June 6 (Reuters) New Zealand's top tennis player, banned over a substance found in his hair-loss product, is considering appealing his two-year suspension.

Mark Nielsen accepts a ''foolish oversight'' but said today the severity of the fine handed down by the International Tennis Federation was out of proportion to the offence.

The 28-year-old was hit with the two-year ban yesterday after an independent tribunal found he had committed a doping offence under the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.

Nielsen, ranked 413 in the world, tested positive for the banned steroid-masking agent finasteride at the Australian Open in January.

A statement on the ITF's Web site said the tribunal accepted Nielsen had taken the substance as part of a medical treatment for hair loss, but that his failure to check if the medication contained a prohibited substance indicated a ''serious dereliction of duty''.

Nielsen said in a statement he was very sorry to have let down New Zealand Tennis by what he called ''a foolish oversight''.

''It is too soon to say what the decision will mean for my career,'' New Zealand news agency NZPA reported Nielsen as saying.

''However, preliminary advice from my lawyer suggests that there may be grounds for an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and I intend to pursue that if possible.

''The decision to give me a two-year ban seems out of proportion compared to decisions made in other cases.'' Nielsen said he had been using the hair-loss product since 2003 and was unaware it had been added in 2005 to the International Tennis Federation's list of banned substances.

The player has three weeks to appeal.

Tennis New Zealand said the situation was ''most unfortunate''.

''While the circumstances were accepted by the ITF Tribunal to have been a combination of unintentional mistakes, the decision is a salutary lesson to all athletes that they must take full responsibility for everything they put into their body,'' a statement posted on their Web site on Tuesday said.

Nielsen's case mirrors that of American Zach Lund who was kicked out of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February for taking the same substance. Lund's ban was set at one year by CAS.

Fellow tennis player Argentine Mariano Hood was given a one-year ban for the same substance in February.

Reuters SK VP0736

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