LONDON: Richard Gasquet escaped a lengthy doping ban on Wednesday when the International Tennis Federation ruled that he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub.

The 23-year-old Frenchman, who was cleared to resume playing after completing a 2-1/2 month ban on Wednesday, convinced an independent anti-doping tribunal that he ingested cocaine from kissing the woman he had just met at the club in Miami.

The tribunal panel of three lawyers said Gasquet consumed no more than “a grain of salt” of the drug, and a long ban would be an injustice in a case which was “unusual to the point of being probably unique.”

“We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful, and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal said in its ruling. “He is neither a cheat nor a user of drugs for recreational purposes.”

The ITF, which had sought a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, was told to impose a retroactive ban of 2 months, 15 days. That cleared 32nd-ranked Gasquet to resume playing.

He will play again

Gasquet will play again “in the next few weeks,” his spokesman Arnaud Lagardere said in a statement.

Gasquet tested positive in a urine sample in March after he pulled out of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, with a shoulder injury. — AP

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