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Coria settles lawsuit over steroid ban with vitamin maker

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Tennis star Guillermo Coria on Wednesday settled his lawsuit against a New Jersey-based vitamin maker he blamed for a positive steroid test that cost him millions in earnings.

Terms between Coria and Universal Nutrition, which had denied making tainted pills, were not disclosed.

The deal came as the 25-year-old Argentine was to testify on the second day of the trial.

Coria had charged that a contaminated multivitamin not only kept him from competing for seven months in 2001 and 2002, but besmirched his reputation and cost him at least $10 million in prize money, bonuses, appearance fees and endorsements.

Richard Grossman, a lawyer for New Brunswick-based Universal in central New Jersey, on Tuesday said the company is not to blame for any contamination. He told the jury Universal took care to prevent steroids from being mixed into batches of vitamins.

Coria, once ranked No. 3 in the world, did not speak to reporters as he left the courtroom. Lawyers for him and the company declined to give any details on the deal.

The deal was announced by state Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz after about five hours of closed-door negotiations between the sides, which at times appeared to include Coria and members of his family.

The judge said the parties agree with the finding of a tribunal of the ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, that the positive test was caused by ‘‘inadvertent and unknowing ingestion of a banned substance.’’‘‘Parties further agree that Universal’s products were safe as formulated to the label, and met all FDA standards,’’ Ferencz said.

Court was then adjourned. Coria hugged his lawyers, shook hands with Universal personnel, and the judge, who said, ‘‘Good luck to you.’’

Outside court, Coria lawyer Will Nystrom said the matter was resolved, but declined further comment. ‘‘We can’t say anything but what the judge said,’’ he said.

Likewise, Universal’s Grossman said, ‘‘We all agreed; nobody’s going to say anything.’’

The only witness in the case was sports management executive Gavin Forbes, who on Tuesday told the Middlesex County jury that Coria’s suspension for testing positive cost the young pro at least $10 million.

Forbes, of industry powerhouse IMG, said they were unable to get Coria endorsements when he returned to tennis in 2002. ‘‘We can only assume, since he was one of the biggest stars, it was because he had a taint to his name,’’ he testified.

If a verdict had favored Coria, some experts believed it would be the first time a world-class professional athlete proved that a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs was caused by product contamination.

Coria, who turned pro in 2000 at age 18, was suspended in 2001 at age 19 for two years. The ATP reduced the penalty seven months after a lab test showed the multivitamin was tainted with steroids.

Coria was out of tennis from August 2001 to March 2002. He reached his highest ranking, No. 3, in May 2004. But he has played little in the past two years. Amid injuries, Coria dropped out of the top 100 in 2006, and is currently ranked 347th by the ATP.