By Bill Barclay
LONDON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The tennis career of Argentina's Mariano Puerta lay in tatters on Wednesday after he was banned for a record eight years after a positive drugs test.
The International Tennis Federation said its independent Anti-Doping Tribunal had ruled that 27-year-old Puerta tested positive for the banned stimulant etilefrine after his French Open final defeat by Spain's Rafael Nadal in June.
"In accordance with the WADA World Anti-Doping Code it therefore imposed an eight-year suspension from competition, commencing June 5, 2005," the ITF said in a statement on its official website.
No tennis player had previously been banned for more than two years.
It was Puerta's second doping offence and the unprecedented length of the ban effectively ends his career, although it fell short of the lifetime ban which could have been imposed under the rules.
Puerta served a nine-month ban after testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol in 2003.
"The Tribunal determined that Mr Puerta's analytical positive result was caused by an inadvertent administration of etilefrine," the ITF added.
It said Puerta's results at Roland Garros would be disqualified and he would forfeit the ranking points and 440,000 euros ($523,000) prize money he won in the singles and the 3,282 euros he won in the doubles.
In addition, all results achieved by Puerta since the French Open will be disqualified and he will lose the entry ranking points and prize money of $330,925 gained in those events.
Puerta, who was ranked 13 in the ATP's entry system before Wednesday's ruling, has three weeks to decide whether to lodge an appeal against the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.
France's L'Equipe newspaper reported in October that Puerta had returned a positive test after traces of etilefrine were found in his urine after the Roland Garros final against Nadal, which Puerta lost 6-7 6-3 6-1 7-5.
At the time Puerta said there was no truth in the report.
The French tennis federation (FFT) said in a statement on Wednesday: "The FFT welcome that the rules mentioned in the anti-doping programme of the ITF has been implemented by the court which was dealing with a case of second offence."