November 8, 2007 / 12:25 AM / 10 years ago

German federation plays down Haas poison rumor

<p>Germany's Tommy Haas serves to Russia's Igor Andreev during their Davis Cup semi-final tennis match in Moscow, September 21, 2007. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German tennis federation (DTB) believes there is no medical evidence to support a rumor that Tommy Haas was poisoned during Germany’s Davis Cup semi-final defeat by Russia in Moscow in September.

German Davis Cup doubles player Alexander Waske was quoted in German media on Wednesday as saying an unnamed Russian had told him in Moscow that Haas had been poisoned.

DTB spokesman Oliver Quante said on Thursday that Haas had confirmed he would travel to New York for hair and blood tests to see if there was any truth to the rumor.

However, he said that German team doctor Erich Rembeck had noted there was no medical evidence to support the claim. A senior Russian tennis official called the poisoning story “complete rubbish”.

“There is no medical reason that justifies further, targeted tests with regard to poisoning,” Quante said.

“As an association, we must rely on facts in judging and assessing the situation and not on speculation,” he added.

“Therefore, because we have no evidence of poisoning and because we do not know how reliable the informant is, we must assume that it’s no more than speculation.”

Haas, Germany’s number one player, was beaten in straight sets on the opening day of the match and was unable to play in the reverse singles on Sunday because of a case of gastro-enteritis.

“I had never in my life felt so dreadful and I was really starting to get scared,” Haas was quoted as saying in Thursday’s Bild newspaper.

Russia won the tie 3-2 with victories in both the final day’s singles rubbers.

“We lost that weekend because the Russian team was better than us over the three days,” Quante said, adding that the DTB was not considering challenging the result.

WEAKEST PLAYER

“I have just spoken with Waske and he denied ever making the accusations,” Russian Davis Cup captain Shamil Tarpishchev told Reuters from Duesseldorf on Thursday.

“Waske said he was told about the possible poison plot by some Russian-speaking German, who lives in Moscow. That guy had heard someone say something about poisoning and started spreading the rumors. It was never really a story for us.”

Earlier, Alexander Katsnelson, general director of the Kremlin Cup who was responsible for organizing the Davis Cup semi-final from the Russian side, said it was odd that the story had come out more than a month after the match.

“We don’t take them (poison rumors) seriously. This is just usual stuff coming from a guy who lost,” he told Reuters.

“It would not have made sense for the Russians to poison Haas because he was Germany’s weakest player in the tie.”

Haas was thrashed by Igor Andreev 6-2 6-2 6-2 in the opening singles rubber before being replaced by the 206th-ranked Philipp Petzschner for the reverse singles on the final day.

“Since he (Haas) arrived in Moscow and began training it was evident he was not in good shape physically, he was huffing and puffing on the court,” Katsnelson said.

He added that it was possible Haas had suffered food poisoning “if he had eaten something somewhere”.

“I can categorically say the food at the venue was of the best quality,” he said. “We had the same catering company preparing food for both teams, so Haas can’t blame the organizers for any of his problems.”

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is investigating the rumor, ITF spokeswoman Barbara Travers said on Thursday.

Additional reporting by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow; editing by John O'Brien and Ken Ferris

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