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Volandri banned after positive test

ITALY'S Filippo Volandri has been suspended for three months after testing positive for a banned stimulant and will miss next week's Australian Open.

"The independent tribunal found a sample provided by Mr. Volandri on 13 March 2008 at the ATP Tour event in Indian Wells ... contained salbutamol at a concentration greater than 1,000 ng/ml," the International Tennis Federation said in a statement.

The 27-year-old, ranked 109th in the world, blamed his failed test on an inhaler he takes for asthma.

Volandri said he had a medical exemption certificate to use Ventolin, which contains salbutamol, but was deemed to have exceeded his limit.

"The tribunal accepted Mr. Volandri had not taken salbutamol with intent to enhance his sporting performance, rather he had taken salbutamol to treat his asthma," the statement added. "However, it found his ATUE (exemption certificate) only permitted him to use asthma medication in line with generally accepted asthma treatment guidelines, and that the amount of salbutamol he inhaled was not consistent with such use and so could not be said to be proper therapeutic use. The tribunal therefore found a doping offence had been committed."

Volandri, ranked 25th in the world in 2007, had been scheduled to play Croatia's Mario Ancic in the first round at Aussie Open.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Kiefer has withdrawn from the Australian Open after failing to recover from a left ankle injury he picked up last week while playing for Germany at the Hopman Cup.

The 31-year-old Kiefer had been drawn to meet Argentina's Guillermo Canas in the first round.

Also, former No. 4-ranked Kimiko Date qualified for the main draw yesterday, at age 38 and 13 years since her most recent grand slam singles appearance.

Date, who came out of retirement last year, beat Australian Marija Merkovic 7-5, 6-1 in the final round of qualifiers.

The Japanese player said women's tennis had changed significantly during her 12-year retirement, becoming much quicker and more powerful, but she saw age as no barrier.

"I don't care about the age because I am still moving," Date said. "I played three matches already. No problem in my body. I never put the taping. Sometimes (in the past) I must call the trainer, never happen after come back."

Date reached a career high of No. 4 in 1995, and had made the semifinals at the Australian and French Opens plus Wimbledon, and the quarterfinals of the US Open. Date ended her retirement last year and enjoyed considerable success in ITF events in Japan.


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