Decision on Nadal defamation suit Nov. 16

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Rafael Nadal asked French television presenter Roselyne Bachelot for 100,000 Euros in a defamation suit filed in France last year, and finally heard on Friday.

Bachelot’s lawyer offered a “symbolic Euro” to Nadal, if the court rules against his client.

There have been numerous stories about Nadal in the media over the years, numerous inflammatory quotes and thinly veiled accusations.

But the words from France’s former French sports minister some 18 months ago were the straw that broke Nadal’s back – so to speak. 

He filed the suit in April, 2016, after Bachelot’s comments a few week prior on a French television show. Bachelot stated that Nadal’s long-term absence because of a knee issue in 2012 was “probably because of a positive doping test.”

“When you see a tennis player stopping for months, it’s because he has tested positive. Not every time, but very often,” she added.

In context, this came the day after Maria Sharapova announced at a Los Angeles press conference that she had tested positive for meldonium. Sharapova served a 15-month suspension and returned last April.

Nadal was irate when he first talked about Bachelot’s comments at Indian Wells.

A few weeks later, he filed suit.

His statement at the time said this:

“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.”

Nadal’s medical records provided

The case was originally scheduled to be heard in July. But a court backlog postponed it to Friday. It was heard at the Tribunal correctionnel de Paris.

Neither Nadal (who is playing the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai) nor Bachelot was present.

According to Le Parisien, Nadal lawyer Patrick Maisonneuve said Bachelot’s comments “could have had major consequences”, notably concerning current or future sponsors. He said, “Nadal asked me to put an end, once and for all, to what Mrs. Bachelot said by providing his medical records,.”

Maisonneuve said the files indicated a very serious issue with his his client’s knee tendon.

“Startingly lax”

For his part, Bachelot lawyer Olivier Chappuis put the International Tennis Federation on trial, per Le Parisien. He contended the ITF’s anti-doping program “has always been startlingly lax” with an entrenched culture of “concealing positive tests.” 

To shore up Bachelot’s “good-faith” contention, Chappuis said his client had based her opinion on statements made in the media by former players Christophe Rochus and Daniel Köllerer

“There is an enormous gap between his string of successes and the weakness of the anti-doping testing,” Chappuis added. “What sponsors abandoned Rafael Nadal following these statements? None.”

The court reserved judgment on Friday.

A decision is expected Nov. 16.

When he filed the suit, Nadal said that any damages awarded would go to a charitable endeavor in France.