Rafael Nadal sues former French health minister over doping allegations

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    Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal

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    Story highlights

    • Nadal sues over politician's doping claim
    • Ex-French sports minister said he tested positive
    • Spaniard, 29, has never failed a drug test

    (CNN)Rafael Nadal is so tired of rumors linking him to doping that he has launched a defamation lawsuit against a former French health minister.

    The tennis star warned in March that he would not tolerate unfounded accusations on his sporting integrity, and now the world No. 5 has backed up his words.
      On Monday the 14-time grand slam winner released a statement announcing the filing of a case against Roselyne Bachelot, who served as the French minister of health and sports between 2007 and 2010, for her comments made on French television in March.
      "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," Nadal said in the statement, a day after winning a record-equaling 49th clay-court title.
      The Spaniard also aims to start a legal precedent to deter future doping criticism that could haunt fellow athletes, adding: "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."
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      Speaking on Canal+, Bachelot accused Nadal of taking seven months out of tennis between 2012 and 2013 to cover up a failed drugs test.
      "We know that the famous injury which kept Nadal out for seven months is without any doubt because he tested positive," Bachelot said. "When you see a tennis player out of action for a long time, it's usually because they've tested positive."
      Nadal has maintained that he missed out on various tournaments, including the 2012 Olympics and U.S. Open, because of a knee injury.
      "I am going to sue her, and I am going to sue everyone who is going to comment something similar in future, because I am tired of that," Nadal said at the Indian Wells tournament, shortly after her comments were made. "I let it go a few times in the past. No more."
      CNN has attempted to contact the 69-year-old Bachelot but she was not immediately available for comment.
      A representative from Nadal's Monaco-based PR team, Benito Pérez-Barbadillo, told CNN in March: "Rafa was very clear ... he will definitely take legal actions. His lawyers are studying how to proceed."
      Nadal has never failed a drugs test in his career.
      Bachelot was speaking in the wake of Maria Sharapova's shock positive test for meldonium, which was added to the banned list by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) this year.
      Sharapova failed a drug test on January 26 after losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and could face up to a four-year ban from the sport.
      Nadal, who said the Russian "must pay" for her actions despite hoping she had made an innocent mistake, outlined his views on doping in March.
      "I am a completely clean guy," the 29-year-old said. "I worked so hard during my career that when I get injured I never take nothing (banned) to be back quicker."

      Rallying Around

      The International Tennis Federation (ITF) previously labeled Bachelot's allegations as "surprising, but also incorrect."
      "All players who are convicted of a violation of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program are publicly announced as required under the rules of the Program and WADA," the ITF said in a statement sent to CNN.
      "WADA has independent oversight of the results of all samples that are collected from tennis players under the program, and so would not only be aware of any attempted coverup or failure to act on any positive test, but also have the right to appeal against any failure to take forward any apparent breach of the program."
      Nadal had received widespread support after Bachelot's comments.
      One of his backers is Real Madrid's French manager Zinedine Zidane, who said he "felt bad" for one of the Spanish football club's more famous fans.
      "He is a gentleman and has always made his values clear, which everybody appreciates," Zidane said.
      Meanwhile, Spain's National Olympic Committee announced it "deeply regretted the unfortunate and unjustified statements" from Bachelot.
      "Given the position she has held, she should be aware that such accusations -- given their importance -- must be backed up by evidence that substantiates them and which should be presented to the relevant bodies for knowledge and action," it said in a statement.
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