BUENOS AIRES — Retired tennis player Mariano Puerta has admitted he lied to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reduce his suspension after a second positive doping test.
Four months after the high point of his career — the final of the 2005 French Open — the Argentine tested positive for etilefrine, a banned cardiorespiratory stimulant. He had also been caught in 2003 for the use of a banned anabolic steroid.
Puerta was initially suspended for eight years, but the penalty was reduced to two years thanks to a defense strategy that he said “was a lie.”
“But I did not take any sporting advantage. I don’t want to be seen as a deceiver,” Puerta said in an interview published by La Nacion newspaper on Monday.
Puerta’s defense said he drank water from a glass used by his then-wife Sol Estevanez to take Effortil, a medication against menstrual cramps that contains etilefrine.
The former player said the false claim was created by lawyer Eduardo Moline O’Connor, who died in 2014. O’Connor was a member of CAS from 1998 to 2006, sat in Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice, and worked as an executive for the country’s tennis association.
Puerta said his legal advisers told him no other version would be credible due to his doping record.
Fifteen years later, at age 41, Puerta said the origin of the drug was not the medication taken by Estevanez, but ginseng and caffeine pills that a friend of his fitness coach prepared for him.
“I never met the person who made the pills, never knew his name, no one of the family wanted to know,” Puerta said.
His former fitness coach, Dario Lecman, denied the allegations to La Nacion.
The career of Puerta, who had a top-10 world ranking in 2005, plummeted after the second doping case. He won three ATP singles titles, but the French Open final he lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets was his peak. He never reached another final. After a two-year ban to 2007, he retired two years later.
“To today’s tennis players, I would say don’t do anything that puts you in a position like mine. How can you be safe?” he said. “Being extremely responsible, do not delegate, do not trust anybody. The price that you might pay for making a mistake is very high. It doesn’t make sense. I was irresponsible.”