British tennis player Dan Evans has been banned for one year after testing positive for cocaine, which he explained had accidentally mixed with his medication in a washbag.
The British number four provided the positive sample at the Barcelona Open on 24 April and his suspension is back-dated to begin from that date.
Evans, 27, will therefore be free to return to action from 24 April 2018.
“I am determined to return to the sport I love,” said the Briton.
“I want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this difficult period.”
Governing body the International Tennis Federation (ITF) explained that, because cocaine is not performance enhancing and it was taken out of competition, a potential four-year ban was instead 12 months.
The ITF decision said Evans “promptly admitted his violation” and it accepted his account of how the cocaine got into his system, adding that he bore “no significant fault or negligence for the violation”.
The Briton has also had to forfeit 103,890 euros (£92,205) of prize money won and the ranking points gained between the date of his test and the announcement of the positive finding on 23 June.
According to the ITF decision announced on Tuesday, Evans said “leftover” cocaine had accidentally mixed with permitted medication in the “same pocket of his washbag”.
He said he took those tablets daily from 20 April 2017 to 24 April 2017, the date on which he provided his sample.
It was successfully proven by Evans’ expert, Dr Pascal Kintz, that the amount of cocaine ingested by Evans was no more than 1‐3 mg – a quantity “inconsistent with knowing ingestion and consistent instead with inadvertent contamination”.
Evans had reached a career-high ranking of 41 in March but is now down to 108th, and will slip further before he is able to return to competition in April.Evans will be very pleased at the outcome, having admitted taking cocaine just four days before he played his first match in Barcelona – in the heart of the clay-court season.
First, the 27-year-old successfully argued he took the drug in a context unrelated to tennis, and then convinced the ITF he was not guilty of significant fault as the legal medication he was taking at the time had been contaminated by the leftover cocaine.
The ITF’s more emollient approach to this case contrasts noticeably with the way they have prosecuted other recent doping violations. Maria Sharapova, Marin Cilic and Viktor Troicki all appealed the verdict of independent tribunals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – and all had their bans reduced.
The ITF will have been very keen to avoid this case going the same way, and as Evans agreed to the ban they proposed, the governing body did not push for an independent hearing.
Evans now has a good opportunity to re-establish himself as a top-100 player. It won’t be glamorous returning to the lower tiers of the Futures circuit to scrap for ranking points, but he has proven before he can do it.
In May 2015, after a spell out through injury, Evans stood at 772 in the world. He was back in the world’s top 100 within a year.
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