Former French Open finalist Sara Errani struggled to hold back the tears on Wednesday as she insisted she is not a cheat after being handed a two-month doping ban.
The International Tennis Federation announced the suspension on Monday after Errani tested positive for the banned substance letrozole in a test taken in February.
At a news conference, Errani continued to blame food contamination from her mother’s breast cancer medication.
“The sentence speaks clearly: I was found guilty of the involuntary ingestion of a substance which does not have a doping effect on a female,” said Errani, who reiterated several times that letrozole is not a performance-enhancing drug.
“I don’t know exactly how it could have happened that a pharmaceutical pill taken by my mother ended up in the food, but it’s the only plausible option, because we have eliminated all the others.”
The 30-year-old Errani was informed of the results of the test on April 28 but decided to continue playing tennis in the hope she could avoid a ban.
“It is up to the athlete whether to continue playing or to suspend themselves,” she said. “I decided to continue because I knew and I know that I had done nothing wrong.
“I hoped for and I worked toward being found not guilty, unfortunately the test on my hair that I presented wasn’t accepted because of a legal technicality … I have always been a champion of clean sport, and I remain convinced that anyone who voluntarily dopes should be banned for life.”
An adjudication panel ruled that Errani’s fault was “at the lower end of the scale,” but that she should still be banned for two months from Aug. 3.
Errani’s ban will end on Oct. 2, precluding her from playing in the U.S. Open.
“I hope this time will give me even more motivation,” Errani said. “I hope to use this time to recover from the stress and these awful experiences … I will train my hardest, as I have always done, to try to return stronger than before.”
The Italian broke down in tears as she added: “It’s a difficult situation for my family but we have managed to be even more united so I’m proud of them.”
Errani has also been retroactively disqualified from tournaments from Feb. 16 through June 7. Her only notable performance in that period was a semifinal in Rabat, Morocco, in May, plus a second-round loss at Roland Garros.
She announced she would appeal against the removal of her points earned during that period.
Errani repeatedly and heatedly criticized the media for reporting falsehoods, adding: “You played with the life and sentiments of other people: of me, my mother, my family … that makes me very angry.”
Errani reached the 2012 French Open final, losing to Maria Sharapova, and has completed a career grand slam in women’s doubles with Roberta Vinci.
The 98th-ranked Errani has won nine singles titles and 25 doubles titles in her WTA career. She reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 5 in 2013.
She also helped Italy to three Fed Cup titles.