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Russian stand-off over drug issueBy Karen LyonJanuary 19, 2005US open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova will escape punishment after the sport's governing body yesterday declared her positive drugs test a non-issue.But while the tennis world rallied around the Russian, another of the players caught up in the drama, Elena Dementieva, moved to distance herself from her countrywoman.An emotional Dementieva admitted she had refused to speak with Kuznetsova over the incident. She was also critical of the Women's Tennis Association."I'm just very upset with the way everything has happened. I mean, I don't feel like I want to talk to her, that's it," she said."The WTA, the way they are trying to handle this problem by saying there is three victims, like, but I see only two victim in this story - me and Nathalie Dechy, who really have nothing to do with this," she said. "We just became a part of this by mistake, but huge mistake."On Monday, Belgian Sports Minister Claude Eerdekens revealed there had been a positive drug test at a charity exhibition in December, and made it clear that the positive sample belonged to one of Kuznetsova, Dementieva and Dechy. He then revealed that it had been Kuznetsova who had tested positive for ephedrine, a common ingredient in cold remedies.The runner-up to Kuznetsova in the US Open, Dementieva said the past few days had been very difficult. "I'm just very upset with the way everything has happened. I mean, I don't feel like I want to talk to her. That's it."Dechy, the tournament's No. 19 seed, demanded an apology from the minister. "I think we deserve an apology from the guy," she said. "I mean, you cannot say anything like this - you cannot say some stuff like this, saying it's one of these girl. I mean, this is terrible. This is terrible for me."WTA chief executive Larry Scott labelled the Belgian minister's actions "disgraceful" and is seeking talks with the minister. "It's just shameful what an irresponsible person like this can do to the reputation of a clean sport and three great players," he said.But last night, Eerdekens defended his actions in releasing all information. He said he had released Kuznetsova's name to protect the other three. "We had to get the information because there were three other players with all the questions in the hat," he said on radio SEN "I will never offer an apology."Much of the confusion centres around who is actually in control. The test was initially conducted by the Belgian drug agency and officials are still awaiting B-sample results. It is believed the final results will be held by the Belgian tennis federation, which will then pass on responsibility to the International Tennis Federation.The ITF will follow the WTA stance and Kuznetsova is likely to be warned over the use of the drug. "If it's out of competition, under our program, there is zero implications," said Scott. If she had tested positive in competition, she could have faced a 12-month ban.Yesterday, a relaxed Kuznetsova took to the practice courts at Melbourne Park, then issued a statement: "I pride myself on being a clean athlete of the highest integrity and am offended by these disgraceful accusations. I was tested over 10 times under the extremely rigorous tennis anti-doping program in 2004 alone and have never tested positive in my career."Kuznetsova's doubles partner, Australia's No. 1 player Alicia Molik, said: "Svetlana took a substance which is not banned out of competition, so there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything that she's done."