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Gasquet: Time to turn the page on nightmare year

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:51

Richard Gasquet is ready to confine a nightmare 2009 to history as he mounts a fresh assault on the world’s top ten next year.

The Frenchman has slipped to No.52 in the world rankings after an injury-affected season punctuated by a positive test for cocaine which lead to a ten-week doping suspension.

But Gasquet, who always maintained his innocence, was yesterday cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport of any wrongdoing.

“In my heart I was expecting this outcome because I’m innocent,” said the former French No.1 after hearing the verdict. “So justice has been done.”

Gasquet tested positive during the Miami Masters in March, from which he had withdrawn with a shoulder injury.

Now I can return to training with a clear head – I can turn the page towards 2010”

Despite claiming that the drug had entered his system inadvertently at a nightclub shortly before the test, he was provisionally suspended in May before serving a two-and-a-half month retroactive ban.

The ITF and WADA wanted Gasquet to receive a one or two-year ban, and their appeal took the matter to CAS.

But the highest authority in sport rejected the claim, acknowledging that the 23-year-old was likely to have been contaminated with the minute trace of the drug as a result of a kiss.

“I’m very, very happy this is behind me,” said a relieved Gasquet. “It’s been very tough. I was positive in my head from the beginning because I knew that things should be okay – I’ve always told the truth.”

The former world No.7 admitted that, even after returning from his ban in time for the US Open, he had played the rest of the season under a cloud with his reputation tainted.

“What was horrible was the way people look at you and to see yourself in the media,” he admitted. “I’ve been waiting for this appeal for four months. Now I can return to training with a clear head. I can turn the page towards 2010.”

Gasquet his now free to focus on adding to his five ATP titles, the last of which he won in 2007, and ascending the rankings once more.

“The aim is to return as quickly as possible to the top 20 then 15, little by little,” he explained. “And above all I want to play Roland Garros and have a great tournament. I’ve missed it for the past two years. This year was terrible because I couldn’t even get into the stadium.”

Although the Frenchman said that the experience had changed him forever, he was boosted by the support of his fellow professionals, including world No.2 Rafael Nadal.

“It did me good to have support,” he said. “Today I saw that Gael [Monfils] and others left me a message. I’m going to try and call them all back.

“I took a big blow but I know that I’m going to do everything to have a great season.”

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