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Doping doc doesn’t buy Wilander’s story

May 17, 1997 GMT

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ A doctor says former top-ranked tennis player Mats Wilander committed an unforced error.

Wilander said he used cocaine unknowingly during the 1995 French Open, but Mats Garle, head of Huddinge hospital’s IOC-approved doping lab, doesn’t believe him.

``It sounds like a joke,″ Garle said.

Wilander, who captured seven Grand Slam singles title, including three at the French Open in the 1980s, said on Swedish television Thursday night he ``didn’t feel anything afterwards″.

``But he must have felt the effect of the drug,″ said Garle, who has reviewed the test results. ``Normally, you should be awake for most part of the night afterwards.″

Garle made his comments in an interview for Friday’s Aftonbladet, a Swedish tabloid.

Wilander’s three-month ban from the ATP Tour was front-page news in most Swedish newspapers Thursday. Some papers criticized him for not admitting he had used cocaine.

Another well-known Swedish athlete, former hockey star Borje Salming, admitted trying cocaine a few times during his 16-plus season NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bjorn Borg’s former girlfriend Jannike Bjorling claimed the former five-time Wimbledon champion from Sweden tried cocaine once. Borg denied it.

Wilander and Karel Novacek, the Swede’s Czech-born doubles partner in the 1995 French Open, were suspended three months after withdrawing appeals to the ban for failing drug tests.

The pair first denied allegations of drug use and said the ITF test procedures were flawed. The players argued that their urine samples had been mishandled and alleged the ITF failed to provide evidence on which the charges were based.

But after reviewing the test results and related laboratory documentation, the pair acknowledged the positive results, although both players maintain they were unaware of the presence of cocaine in their bodies and said the drug was unknowingly consumed.

A positive test under the terms of the tennis anti-doping rules is a violation whether the drug was taken knowingly or not.

Wilander, 32, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., was briefly ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the 1988 U.S. Open. He was also a member of several Swedish Davis Cup champion teams.

In addition to their suspensions, Wilander and Novacek must return all prize money earned since May 1995 to the ITF. For Wilander that means $289,005. Novacek must hand back $185,765. Both players will also lose their ranking points.

Mikael Pernfors, a former tennis star now tournament director at the Swedish Open, had hoped Wilander would enter the 50th anniversary tournament at Bastad in July.

``Hopefully, we’ll be able to organize an exhibition instead between Mats and Stefan Edberg,″ Pernfors said.

The ITF ban does not include exhibitions.