Rafael Nadal has confirmed he is suing the former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot for alleging he had absented himself from the Tour in 2012 to hide the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Her comments followed Maria Sharapova’s public admission that she had failed a drug test during the 2016 Australian Open.
Nadal, a 14-time slam champion, returned to his best form the past fortnight after a long slump, winning tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and is back in contention to press for his 10th title in the French Open next month.
He said in a short statement on Monday: “I hereby make public the defamation lawsuit against Roselyne Bachelot, that I have filed today April 25th 2016 before the Paris law courts. This legal proceeding was instigated after Bachelot made offensive remarks last March on Le Grand 8 programme of French channel D8. In charge of the case is Maître Patrick Maisonneuve, lawyer at the Paris bar.”
Bachelot was quoted as saying after Sharapova’s high-profile confession: “We know that Nadal’s famous seven-month injury was without a doubt due to a positive [drug test]. When you see a tennis player who stops playing for long months, it is because he has tested positive and because they are covering it up. It is not something that always happens, but, yes, it happens more than you think.”
Nadal responded immediately, threatening to sue, but has taken legal advice before doing so. Clearly angry, he said when asked last month to expand on his answer: “I’m going to sue her, and I’m going to sue everyone who [is] going to comment [on] something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.
“There is a couple of times I heard comments like this. This is going to be the last one, because I’m going to sue her. I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. Not more. A minister of France should be serious. This time is the time to go against her.”
He added on Monday: “Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career. I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished.
“Should the tribunal consider there has been a wrong-doing and the sentence recognises the right to damages, any compensation will be paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France.
“On the other hand, I ask for total respect regarding the legal procedure just started and would like to express my complete trust in the French justice system who will be judging the legal case. I will not be making any further statement.”
This article was written by Kevin Mitchell, for theguardian.com on Monday 25th April 2016 17.37 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010