ATP tried to dupe me into refusing dope test, says Hewitt

SYDNEY: Lleyton Hewitt has accused the body that runs the world tennis tour of persecuting him for years, at one point allegedly trying to dupe him into refusing a drug test in a ploy that would have copped him a two-year playing ban, it was reported yesterday. 

The Melbourne Age said Hewitt, currently the world's number two player, made the allegations in papers filed this week in an Australian court as part of a US$1.5mil defamation suit against the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). 

In his lawsuit, Hewitt, 22, listed incidents dating back to December 1998 as evidence of ATP malice against him. 

Among other allegations, Hewitt said he was approached in Zurich last October by a man conducting out-of-competition drug testing for the ATP who asked him to sign a document that turned out to be a refusal to undertake drug tests. 

“The individual had not identified himself or his authority before asking that the form be signed,” the papers said. 

“If Hewitt had signed ... he would have been banned from professional tennis for two years,” the Age quoted the papers as saying. 

In other allegations, Hewitt claims the ATP suspended his membership from December 1998 to March 1999 for failing to attend the “ATP University” – a professional training course. 

He also said the ATP threatened to withdraw his wildcard entry at a Key Biscayne, Florida, tournament in March 1999 unless he undertook a medical examination he claimed was unnecessary. 

Hewitt filed his lawsuit just days before he begins defending his Wimbledon crown next week and stems from a long and acrimonious personal battle with the ATP. 

The lawsuit arose from an ATP decision to fine Hewitt US$103,000 for failing to do a television interview in the lead-up to a US tournament in August last year. 

The ATP said Hewitt had breached his contract by failing to do what it said was a compulsory interview, while Hewitt said he had fulfilled all of his contractual requirements. 

Hewitt launched an appeal, and a three-member ATP appeals committee upheld the ATP decision but reduced the fine to US$20,000. 

The move failed to satisfy Hewitt. – AFP  

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