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Rafael Nadal has filed a defamation lawsuit against Roselyne Bachelot, France's former minister for health and sport, claiming that statements she made regarding doping damaged his reputation. Bachelot was on French television last month and said Nadal's seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was "probably due to a positive doping test."
Nadal lashed back, saying, "I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. No more." The 14-time Grand Slam champion added, "this is going to be the last one because I'm going to sue her."
Bachelot was appearing on a French show called "Le Grand 8" and discussing Maria Sharapova's recent positive test for a banned substance. "They just don't reveal positive tests or the sanctions given in tennis," Bachelot said. "But curiously, you will learn that a tennis player had an injury that keeps him or her off the courts for months, like the famous injury of Rafael Nadal that kept him off the court for seven months -- it's very certainly due to a positive test."
The backlash was immediate, as Nadal threatened to sue and supporters from Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid to the International Tennis Federation denounced Bachelot's comments. The ITF in particular responded that "[t]he names of all players sanctioned for a violation of tennis's anti-doping programme are announced publicly, as demanded by the rules of the programme and the worldwide anti-doping code."
While some had poked at Nadal with nonspecific or satirical doping allegations before, this time was different. "But a minister of France should be serious," he said. "This time is the time to go against her. We're going to sue her." After filing the suit, Nadal released a statement:
"Through this case, I intend not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career. I also wish to avoid any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation and to go unpunished."
He also said that if the defamation suit is successful, any judgment awarded will be ''paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France.''