USTA Defends Mary Joe Fernandez
LONDON (Reuters) -- Tennis chiefs leapt to the defense of Mary Joe Fernandez on Tuesday, saying any doubt over the Olympic medalist's honesty was "outrageous."
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) made the statement after the former player was named in allegations of a drugs cover-up by the United States Olympic Committee dating back to the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
Documents released last week suggested that 19 Olympic medalists -- including Fernandez -- failed drugs tests between 1988 and 2000 but were allowed to continue competing at top level.
Multiple gold medalist Carl Lewis was also named in the papers released by Wade Exum, the USOC's director for drug control between 1991 and 2000.
Exum's claims -- dismissed by the USOC as groundless -- have prompted leading Olympic athletes, coaches and officials to call for an open investigation.
"Mary Joe Fernandez is America's most decorated tennis Olympian who represents every American and Olympic ideal," said USTA chairman and president Alan Schwartz.
"For her to be recognized as anything but a person of the utmost honesty, integrity and of the highest ethical standard is outrageous."
Fernandez won the bronze in the women's singles in Barcelona in 1996 and was a gold medalist in the women's doubles that year and four years later in Atlanta.
"Mary Joe had a cold while playing at the Miami tournament in 1992 -- five months before the Olympic Games -- and took over-the-counter Sudafed, an accepted remedy at the time under the International Tennis Federation (ITF) anti-doping rules," Schwartz said in a statement.
"Mary Joe has the full support, confidence and admiration of the USTA and we will continue to regard her as one of the finest ambassadors for our sport and for Olympic tennis.
"As the national governing body for tennis in the United States, the USTA takes all USOC and IOC requirements and obligations, including drug compliance issues, very seriously."
Exum's claims were to form part of a lawsuit against the USOC for racial discrimination and wrongful dismissal, the USOC said. The case was dismissed in court through lack of evidence.
His documents identified more than 100 athletes.
USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel has said the organization sees no reason for an audit or review, and that there was no evidence that any of the cases were mishandled.
He added that the new U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were formed in 2000 because of the same problems revealed in the documents.
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"You are not judged by the height you have risen, but from the depth you have climbed." Frederick Douglass