Gasquet tested positive for cocaine

PARIS -- French tennis player Richard Gasquet has acknowledged he's been told he tested positive for cocaine but says he's innocent.

"I am gathering together proof of my innocence and I will choose an appropriate moment to express myself," Gasquet said in a statement Sunday.

Gasquet said the "B" sample from the tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla., confirmed the result of the "A" sample taken the same day.

The Web site of sports daily L'Equipe reported Saturday that traces of the banned drug were found in the 22-year-old Gasquet's urine sample at the Sony Ericsson Open, where he pulled out after the first round.

The French tennis federation called the report "very surprising" and said Sunday it would wait for official confirmation before taking any action against him.

Gasquet cited a right shoulder injury when he withdrew before his second-round match against Albert Montanes. He could face a two-year ban or a three-month ban if the tests conclude the product was consumed out of competition.

"I know his lifestyle and this surprises me enormously as it's not like him. I had him on the phone, he is sad and really shocked," French tennis player Fabrice Santoro told Europe 1 radio station on Sunday.

Michael Llodra, his Davis Cup doubles partner, said Gasquet would have to accept the consequences if he did take cocaine.

"Cocaine is not a doping product but it is still a banned substance. So, if it is confirmed, he will have to live with that and explain himself," Llodra said. "It would be harmful for French tennis, but he alone will suffer the consequences."

Martina Hingis was banned for two years early last year after testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. The five-time Grand Slam champion and former top-ranked player failed a test after losing to Laura Granville in June 2007.

Hingis became the second WTA player suspended for cocaine after Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain was banned for three months in 2002.

The FFT said in a statement that it "would be very sad for Richard Gasquet himself, for tennis in general, for French tennis in particular, whose image would be dented" if the positive test was officially confirmed.

It added that it will take no action until it has been notified to do so by the governing body of tennis and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"The FFT will follow developments in this affair with the greatest attention, will avoid passing a hasty moral judgment and take care to leave the player to organize his defense," the FFT said. "If the facts are nevertheless proven, it would be particularly regrettable in view of all the efforts the FFT makes with players about [drug] prevention."

Spokesman Graeme Agars said the ATP would not comment on Sunday.

Gasquet, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2007, was considered a future star when he first arrived on tour and developed a backhand widely considered as among the best in the game.

Gasquet was part of a crop of talent in their teens that also included Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, but he has struggled recently and is currently ranked 23rd. He is not even the French No. 1, dropping behind Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.

Since pulling out at Key Biscayne, Gasquet reached the second round in Barcelona and the third round in Rome.

Gasquet was earmarked early as a special talent, appearing on the cover of a French magazine when he was only 9 years old, and winning against Franco Squillari at the 2002 Monte Carlo Masters at 15 years, 10 months.

Later that year, he took the first set before losing to eventual champion Albert Costa in the first round at the French Open.

Also at Monte Carlo, he scored his first big win when he beat Roger Federer in 2005 before narrowly losing to Nadal, who went on to win his first Roland Garros title that year.

However, a lack of nerve often let Gasquet down, such as losing to Murray at last year's Wimbledon after leading two sets to love and serving for the match.