When Dan Evans, the No. 50 player on the ATP Tour and the No. 3 Brit behind Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund, announced a press conference for Friday afternoon, the first thought was that he was pulling out of Wimbledon.
That’s not normally grist for a full press conference. But a week before the big event, in London, it made sense. He had already pulled out of Queen’s Club this week and next week’s tournament in Eastbourne, allegedly due to injury.
But Evans had far bigger news to announce.
He was found positive for cocaine during an anti-doping test back in April, at the Barcelona ATP Tour event.
He read from a statement at the Novotel Hammersmith, a hotel near where the Queen’s Club tournament is going on this week (via the Daily Mail)
‘This is a very difficult day for me and I wanted to come here in person and tell you face-to-face I was notified a few days ago that I failed a drugs test in April, where I tested positive for cocaine.
“It is really important that you know this was taken out of competition and the context completely unrelated to tennis. I made a mistake and I must face up to it. And I do not condone for one second to anyone that this was acceptable behaviour. I have let a lot of people down – my family, my coach, my team, sponsors, British tennis and my fans.
“I can only deeply apologize from the bottom of my heart. It is a sad and humbling experience. I hope you understand I will not be taking any questions and I thank you for your support of my career to date.”
Here is the statement from the ITF:
So Evans is only suspended as of Monday – which may well have been when the ITF planned to announce it. But, like Maria Sharapova before him, the Brit decided to get ahead of the curve and announce it himself.
Evans is only the second well-known player to test positive for cocaine and get the book thrown at him. He follows in the infamous tracks of Martina Hingis, the former No. 1 who, a year into a comeback as a singles player in 2007, also announced a positive test for a small amount of the illegal substance. The test occurred, as it happened, during Wimbledon. She was issued a two-year ban.
That seems to be the standard time frame. So it’s likely what Evans is looking at.
France’s Richard Gasquet failed a test for cocaine in 2009. But he was able to convince the independent tribunal of the “unique circumstances” (it’s a good story) and ended up being suspended just 2 1/2 months.
Hingis insisted she was innocent.
“I have tested positive but I have never taken drugs and I feel 100 per cent innocent. The reason I have come out with this is because I do not want to have a fight with anti-doping authorities,” she said at the time. “Because of my age and my health problems I have also decided to retire from professional tennis. … I have no desire to spend the next seven years fighting doping officials. I’m frustrated and angry. Accusations such as these don’t provide me with the motivation to continue.”
Hingis, of course, returned and later became No. 1 in doubles.
Evans did not deny it. And he does have some history
Early patterns changed – until …
Nearly a decade ago, he and fellow Brit Daniel Smethurst were caught out partying at a club at 3 a.m., the night (morning?) before their junior doubles match at Wimbledon. The censure wasn’t all that serious – a four-month suspension of his funding from the British Lawn Tennis Association. Although that was a record. It probably wasn’t the smartest move to hang at a club in the centre of Wimbledon village – where the population of tennis people swells to gigantic proportions during the Championships, and where he was sure to be seen by someone.
Then again, Evans made plenty of bonehead moves in his youth. But after years of seeming not to take his tennis seriously enough, he has come on and reached a career best singles ranking of No. 41 back in March.
The 27-year-old reached the fourth round at the Australian Open after reaching the final of the Sydney tuneup event the week before. Since then, he has won more than one match at an ATP Tour-level event only once.
Ironically, that came in Barcelona, where he failed the doping test.