An angry Rafael Nadal has threatened to sue former French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot in the latest episode of tennis’ ugly doping saga.
Nadal, who beat Gilles Muller 6-2 2-6 6-4 at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Monday (AEST), became incensed by allegations from Ms Bachelot, who last week publicly accused the Spaniard of failing a drug test during a 2012 lay-off.
Nadal’s outburst is further bad publicity for a sport still coming to terms with Maria Sharapova’s positive drug test for meldonium.
“We know that Nadal’s famous seven-month injury [in 2012] was because he tested positive,” Ms Bachelot told French TV programme Le Grand 8.
“If a player takes a significant time out from the sport, it’s because he tested positive and the whole thing was covered up. It isn’t always the case, but it happens quite often.”
Following his third-round win at Indian Wells, Nadal – who had already responded to the comments – reacted with fury when questioned again on the subject.
“There is a couple of times [in the past] I heard comments like this,” the 14-time grand slam winner is quoted as saying.
“This [is] gonna be the last one, because I gonna sue her. I am tired about these things.
“I let it go a few times in the past. Not more, you know. I know how tough I worked to be here.
“To hear those comments from a person that should be serious, because [she] was a minister of a big country and a great country like France.
“So I gonna sue her, and I gonna sue everyone who gonna comment something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.”
When quizzed if he had an answer why he had been the subject of such claims in the past, he responded: “I don’t care.
“I really don’t care because I know how I arrived to where I am.
“The people who knows me knows very well how I arrived where I am.
“So, you know what? The past I didn’t want to go for just this, to sue the people who said these things, because I didn’t thought that they were serious.
“But a minister of France should be serious. This time is the time to go against her.
“We gonna sue her, and since the day after … I tell you that everyone who has another comment in this way gonna happen the same, because that’s too much for me.”
Ms Bachelot served as French sports minister between 2007 and 2010.
Nadal must be ‘quite confident’ of success
Curtin University media law expert, Associate Professor Dr Joseph Fernandez, says the Spaniard’s bold reaction suggests a victory in court – if it goes that far.
“When a person feels that strongly, they are more emotionally charged,” Dr Fernandez told The New Daily.
“You can only guess and speculate, quite safely, that he is quite confident that if he were to push this through the courts, he would come out winning.
“That emotional display of his reaction … that suggests to me that he is going to take this battle.”
Dr Fernandez added that such an allegation from someone like Ms Bachelot was surprising, and that if she did not have significant proof, she should retract her comments immediately.
“I have no idea what basis the French minister has for making the comments she has but I’m assuming that a person at that level wouldn’t, in a casual way, make such a serious allegation,” he said.
“I’m assuming that if push came to shove, that minister would draw upon the defences that are available, otherwise the next best thing to do would be to back off, apologise, retract, correct and clarify.
“We’ll all be very interested to see the basis of those claims.
“Someone merely choosing not to play for a while or to go into a hiatus for a while is, in my view, not a sufficient basis to accuse that person of doping.
“I’m hoping that the French minister has a lot more than that for the basis.”
Not the first time
Ms Bachelot’s comments come after repeated accusations against Nadal in recent years.
In a 2011 newspaper column, French tennis legend Yannick Noah said Spain’s sporting success was down to doping – to which Nadal responded angrily.
Two years later, ex-player Daniel Koellerer – banned for life for match-fixing – said Nadal winning ’10 of 13 tournaments‘ after returning from his 2012 injury was ‘impossible’.
And in 2014, Belgian Christopher Rochus accused Nadal of taking performance-enhancing drugs.