Monday 20 August 2018

Drug question puts Williams on edge over French Open


Serena Williams. Photo: PA
Serena Williams. Photo: PA

Simon Briggs

Serena Williams made a successful return to the tour at Indian Wells, defeating world No 53 Zarina Diyas in her first match since the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia in September.

But the post-match press conference took an unexpected turn as Williams was forced to defend herself over a backdated Therapeutic Use Exemption she had received for the use of prednisolone - a banned corticosteroid - during the 2015 French Open.

Having completed her 7-5, 6-3 victory over Diyas in 1hr 32min, Williams was initially jubilant. "It was incredible," she said. "It's been over a year and a kid later. I get to go home to her now and I'm excited about that. It definitely wasn't easy, but it was good. I'm a little rusty, but it doesn't matter."

Then Williams was asked why she had required the backdated TUE, which was revealed as part of a cache of data by the Fancy Bears hacker group in 2016. "Can you talk louder," she told the questioner, as part of an acerbic exchange, "so everyone can hear you ask about my drugs?"

After saying she had never tested positive, Williams explained: "I wasn't going to play it (the French Open) unless I had a TUE because if you remember that year I was incredibly sick... I said I literally can't play the final, but I need a TUE to take a decongestant. That's one thing I take pride on. I'm never going to be able to look my daughter in the eye and say, 'Mom cheated' or 'Mom did something that is totally irresponsible.'"

The World Anti-Doping Agency code says retroactive exemptions may be granted after treatment for an "acute medical condition". Footage included in the movie 'Serena' showed Williams bedbound with a chest infection before the French Open final.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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