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Slovak Tennis Federation confirms Beck's tennis ban

The Slovak Tennis Federation (STZ) on February 14 confirmed the two-year ban imposed on Slovak tennis player Karol Beck by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Beck, 23, tested positive for the banned steroid clenbuterol during Slovakia's Davis Cup semi-final win over Argentina in September 2005, the TASR news wire wrote.
Slovakia defeated Argentine 4-1, with Beck winning both his singles and his doubles encounters, to go through to the final round against Croatia. While Beck's individual performances will be wiped out because of the doping result, Slovakia's victory stands.
The ban is valid even within Slovakia, announced STZ head Tibor Macko, who added that he still believes that Beck is innocent.
"We believe that Karol Beck didn't take the anabolic agent clenbuterol intentionally. The STZ will do everything it can to ensure that Beck returns to the game as soon as possible after the ban ends," the STZ said in a statement.
Beck, 85th in the ATP rankings, said he believed that an acquaintance spiked his drinks in a nightclub in Bratislava on the night of September 16, 2005, shortly before the doping test was carried out.
He denied having knowingly taken clenbuterol, and said he may have tested positive because he took his mother's medicine by mistake, the news wire wrote.
"This is not a doping scandal, because I have never taken drugs and I never will," Beck said, adding that he intends to appeal the ITF decision.
"Success cannot be forgiven in Slovakia. A certain person has hurt Slovak tennis, the Slovak Davis Cup team and, most of all, my son," added Beck's father, Karol Beck senior, who appeared alongside his son at the news conference.
Beck's family has already launched legal action against a person whose name has not been revealed. "A week before the Davis Cup final between Slovakia and Croatia, I met the head of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), Ladislav Pittner, to ask him what to do in this case," said Beck.


Košice
Air crash survivor recovering at home

FIRST Lieutenant Martin Farkaš, the only person out of 43 on board the Antonov-24 Slovak military airplane to survive the crash in Hungary on January 19, is recovering at his home in Poprad after his release from hospital.
"We allowed him to go home on January 27, in good physical condition," Košice Military Pilot Hospital (VLN) spokesman Alexander Machava said.
Farkaš spent 36 hours at the VLN following his transfer there from Louis Pasteur Teaching Hospital (FNLP) in Košice.
"We did all the necessary examinations, including eye, neck, neurological, surgical, dental and internal examinations, and none of them showed any permanent damage," said the spokesman.
Doctors expect that Farkaš will require at least another four weeks to recuperate.
"He's physically all right, but we'll see how he reacts psychologically to his domestic environment," Machava continued.
Farkaš has no special medical supervision at home. However, he is in contact with doctors, and in addition to attending checkups at the VLN will be visiting the trauma department at the FNLP, added the spokesman.


Nitra
Home from Tunisian prison

NORBERT Ficza of Nitra, who was arrested two years ago in Tunisia and originally faced 14 years in prison, is back home in Slovakia thanks to the efforts of Slovak diplomats.
The 27-year-old Ficza was detained at a Tunisian airport in November 2003 on his way back to Slovakia following a holiday. He was accused of stealing two cars and using false credit cards. He was allegedly recognized by his tattoos, the Sme daily reported.
Ficza denied the charges. "At first, I didn't know what was going on. They were speaking to me in Arabic, and I couldn't understand what they were saying. The worst part was the time I spent in the remand centre. My cell was so small that I could only stand or crouch down in it," he said.
"There was an atmosphere of fear. The guards were cruel to the prisoners. One prisoner came back to his cell with his arm so badly broken that the bone was sticking out," Ficza said.
Ficza's court case began in Arabic without an interpreter. Later, he sought help from the Slovak Foreign Ministry. At first all contact with him was forbidden, and this ban remained in place until Deputy Foreign Minister József Berényi visited Tunisia at the end of last year.
Ficza was eventually found guilty only of submitting false documents in renting cars, and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
He wanted to appeal, but the Foreign Ministry persuaded him not to.
Ficza was helped during his time in jail by a fellow prisoner, who taught him English and Arabic. Although conditions in the prison were extremely harsh, the other prisoners were kind to him, and gave him food brought to them by their relatives, he said. Despite this, he still lost 25 kilograms.
Although he was due to remain in prison until March, Ficza was released early thanks to a special amnesty. The Slovak consulate helped him to get a new passport, as the original one had gone missing in jail.
Ficza is now back in Nitra, where he lives with his family and five-year-old daughter. He does not rule out returning to Tunisia, but has no specific plans to do so at the moment.


photo: TASR/EPA

TWO veterinarians retrieve a dead swan near the city of Trent on the island of Ruegen, Germany, on the morning of February 15. The country has confirmed the presence of the H5N1 bird-flu virus, which is approaching ever closer to Slovakia. Slovakia's neighbour, Austria, has also confirmed the presence of the deadly virus. Hungary and Poland, which border Slovakia to the south and north, have reported dead birds but have not yet identified the virus. Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Slovenia have all reported the virus. Veterinarians have collected 11 swans from pieces of ice floating down the Malý Dunaj (Little Danube) river, in Slovakia, and sent them for examination. The government has nevertheless begun to purchase medicines and devise plans for steps by veterinarians.

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