FORMER world top 10 star Marin Cilic has been handed a nine-month ban for taking a banned stimulant but escaped a longer suspension after tennis chiefs accepted he did not intend to cheat.
Cilic, who missed Croatia’s Davis Cup tie against Andy Murray and Great Britain at the weekend because of the pending case, tested positive for nikethamide at the BMW Open in May.
The 24-year-old, who could have been suspended for up to two years, successfully argued that he had inadvertently taken the substance in glucose tablets and had his ban cut to nine months.
Cilic’s ban has also been backdated to the date of his failed test, 1 May, meaning that he will be free to return to competition from 1 February 2014.
A statement from the International Tennis Federation said: “The independent tribunal found that Mr Cilic ingested the nikethamide inadvertently as a result of taking the Coramine glucose tablets, and did not intend to enhance his performance in doing so, and that he therefore met the preconditions of Article 10.4 of the Programme, which entitles him to a reduction of the Period of Ineligibility for Specified Substance based on an assessment of his fault.”
Cilic is one of the highest-profile figures in the sport ever to fail a drug test, having reached a grand slam semi-final and risen to a career-high No9 in the world in 2010. He was ranked 11th when he failed the doping test.
Murray called for clarity regarding the case last week, when it was known that Cilic would not take part in the Davis Cup World Group play-off but the reasons were not made public. The Scot has also been vocal in calling for tennis chiefs to increase anti-doping efforts, such as introducing biological passports, even if it means players sacrificing prize money to do so.
Cilic won the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club last year and lost to Murray in this summer’s final. He then reached the second round of Wimbledon but withdrew before his match citing a knee injury. The current world No24 has been stripped of ranking points and prize money won since the BMW Championship in Munich, where he reached the last 16.