Lawyers for tennis stars Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek say they will go to court in London this week to clear the players' names over allegations they tested positive for cocaine at last year's French Open championships.
"On behalf of our clients, we categorically deny the allegation." the lawyers said in a statement published Sunday in the British tabloid, News of the World."We have lie detector evidence proving our clients are telling the truth in denying the allegation."
Yet it was the News of the World which said it had evidence that the two players tested positive at the tournament at Roland Garros. The newspaper also said that the sport's world governing body, the International Tennis Federation, had kept the positive tests a secret.
"We came to London with our clients and our expert witnesses to prove our clients' innocence, as the ITF rules require," the players' lawyers told the News of the World. "The ITF then cancelled a hearing the night before the hearing was due to begin.
"As a result, we are issuing proceedings against the ITF in the High Court in London next week."
Meanwhile, the ITF refused to confirm the newspaper's allegations.
The players had high-level talks last week with Association of Tennis Professionals officials, including the head of the anti-doping program, Dr. David Martin, the ATP's Gavin Applebee, and the ITF's Deborah Jevans, the report said.
"I can't confirm that there have been any positive tests," ITF president Brian Tobin said after the Australian Open championships.
Wilander, 32, of Sweden, has won seven Grand Slam titles. Novacek, a 30-year-old Czech, was ranked No. 8 in 1991, but now is down to No. 122. They withdrew from the Australian Open, citing injuries.
"My first reaction is that someone wants to spread a nasty rumor about (Wilander)," Swedish Tennis Federation president Jan Francke said about the allegation.
"It seems incredibly strange considering what kind of person Mats is. I'm a member of the ITF board and I would have known if this had happened, especially since he is a Swede.
"Since the French Open took place six months ago, I would have heard something about this."
Random testing began in 1984 and Tobin estimated that about 1,000 samples were taken last year.
"Should any particular athlete ever be found in violation of the rules after full and due process, then, of course, he or she will be subject to the penalties proscribed," Tobin said.
Positive test results subject a player to a three-month suspension on the first offense, a one-year suspension for the second, and permanent suspension for a third.
If confirmed, this would be the first major on-court drug scandal to taint tennis.
Boris Becker was reprimanded by the ATP Tour in 1994 for claiming that drug abuse was rampant in men's tennis.
And last year Becker was fined $20,000 for insinuating that Thomas Muster's comeback from dehydration after the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Open, to beat Becker in the final, was drug-inspired.
"Everybody knows the ATP drug testing is a joke," Becker said.
But Becker had little to say about Sunday's reports.
"Both are good friends of mine, so I cannot even comment so much," he said after winning the men's final of the Australian Open. "I have to talk to them personally."
The News of the World quoted former British Davis Cup player David Lloyd as saying, "It's not unknown for players to sprinkle cocaine on their wristbands and sniff it during a match."
Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg admitted in 1992 that he had sampled cocaine during the mid-1980s, but won a defamation lawsuit against a Swedish magazine that ran a story by his ex-girlfriend characterizing him as a "user."
Vitas Gerulaitis had admitted to cocaine problems, and when he died in bed in 1992, it was immediately assumed that it was an overdose case. But the coroner found that carbon monoxide from a faulty room heater killed him.
Jennifer Capriati entered a substance abuse rehabilitation center after she was arrested in May 1994 for marijuana possession.
And Yannick Noah created a sensation in 1979 when he spoke of widespread recreational drug use on the tour, and cited a French Open finalist as an example.