BUENOS AIRES – Argentine former tennis player Mariano Puerta admitted Monday he lied to get a reduced sentence when he was caught doping after losing the 2005 French Open final to Rafael Nadal.
“The explanation we used as a strategy was a lie. But I didn’t gain any sporting advantage, I don’t want to be seen as a cheat any more,” Puerta told the La Nacion newspaper.
Spanish great Nadal bounced back from losing the first set on a tie-break to win his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros — where he has been crowned champion a record 12 times.
Following the final, Puerta, now 41, tested positive for the stimulant etilefrine.
Given he’d already served a nine-month doping ban in 2003 after testing positive for another stimulant, clenbuterol, he was initially handed an eight-year ban.
However, upon arguing that he had accidentally ingested the etilefrine when he took a sip from his wife’s glass of water in which she had put medication for menstrual pain, his ban was reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
However, Puerta told La Nacion that at the time he was taking a nutritional supplement that contained “caffeine and ginseng” that he had acquired from a friend of his personal trainer Dario Lecman, and that it was contaminated with traces of etilefrine.
“We couldn’t do anything because the pills were bought, I don’t know how to put this … not in a legal way,” said Puerta.
“My lawyers didn’t think it was a good idea to say what happened.”
Questioned by La Nacion, Lecman said, “I’ve got nothing to do with this. I didn’t give him anything. It’s a lie.”
Puerta’s former coach Andres Schneiter, also cast doubt on the new version of events.
“I asked him what had happened and he told me he didn’t know. I thought he was lying. I sensed that reply wasn’t sincere, I think he took something without knowing and it was negligence,” said Schneiter.
Puerta was ranked number nine in the world at the time but never managed to reach that level again after his comeback in 2007. He retired two years later.
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