- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

GAME, SET, MATCH, GASQUET

Athletes, entertainers and politicians who have to fend off rumors and accusations — not to mention pesky reporters, paparazzi and drug-testers — need their heroes, too. And now they have one. He is French tennis player Richard Gasquet.

Gasquet last week was about to be suspended by the International Tennis Federation for using cocaine. But he beat the rap, convincing an ITF “tribunal panel” of his innocence because, drum roll, please… he kissed a woman who had ingested the stuff.

In the annals of excuse-making, this is one for the ages, a Hall of Fame, All-Star, All-American, chart-topping excuse. Even better, it worked. Dog 1, Homework 0.

Whether or not Gasquet was telling the truth, the ITF bought the story, stating there was only a small amount of cocaine in his body and that “on the balance of probability,” kissing a coke-addled woman indeed caused him to test positive. Not only that, but the organization also practically named him tennis’ man of the year. “We have found the player to be a person who is shy and reserved, honest and truthful and a man of integrity and good character,” the tribunal intoned. “He is neither a cheat nor a user of drugs for recreational purposes.”

And he always leaves the seat down, too.

Without getting into specifics, Gasquet must be one heck of a kisser. But mainly, the ruling set a bar-lowering precedent for anyone famous caught doing something illegal, immoral or stupid. Martina Hingis must be kicking herself. After the former No. 1 women’s tennis player tested positive for cocaine during Wimbledon in 2007, she immediately retired. Then she was banned for two years. Ouch. All she had to do was claim she had watched the movie “Scarface” and Al Pacino snorting all that blow had somehow caused a sympathetic reaction in her own system. Makes sense, the ITF would have said. Grab your racket.

Public figures need an ITF-like body standing ready to clear their name at the drop of an outlandish excuse. If such an organization existed, it might have determined that Manny Ramirez was taking a female fertility drug to clear up some pimples, Jeremy Mayfield was really a vigilante blowing up meth labs who inadvertently breathed in some chemicals, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was personally researching the causes of aberrant behavior by elected officials.

On the balance of probability, I would have believed it.

“We’d been arguing nonstop. There was a lot of screaming and crying.” — San Antonio Spurs forward Richard Jefferson, explaining why he abruptly decided to cancel his wedding

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