Italian tennis star suspended for just two months after blaming mum's tortellini for failed drugs test
In an unexpected addition to the list of doping excuses, former world No 5 Sara Errani has been banned for only two months after convincing an International Tennis Federation tribunal that she ingested a banned substance via her mother’s tortellini.
A chemical called letrozole was found in a urine sample that Errani donated in February, during an out-of-competition sample at her parents’ house in Italy. The substance is used in the treatment of breast cancer, but it has also been associated with the promotion of muscle tissue in female bodybuilders.
Errani argued that the letrozole in question was part of her mother’s treatment regime. Mrs Errani – who has suffered multiple incidences of cancer in the past – kept the chemical in a blister pack of pills, which she would leave to the side of her kitchen worktop.
According to the evidence given to the ITF tribunal on July 19, Mrs Errani would sometimes push out two pills rather than the one she intended to take, and in this instance there might have been a case of unintentional contamination when a pill fell into the “tortellini or broth which she prepared on 14 or 15 Feb”.
The ITF tribunal accepted the argument, ruling that “it was more likely than not that letrozole entered the player’s body by means of her mother’s medication”. As a result, Errani received the light sentence, which started last week and will end in October. She will, however, also lose the rankings points and prize money that she had earned between Feb 16 and her most recent dope test on June 7, which found nothing untoward.
Some will question why she was allowed to play for almost four months in between those dates without undergoing another test, despite a busy period in which she played in 10 tournaments and enjoyed a successful run through qualifying at the French Open.
“I feel very frustrated,” said the 30-year-old Errani, who is No 98 in the world, “but at same time at peace with my conscience and aware I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The verdict from the ITF took account of what it called Errani’s “unblemished record”.