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Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) Rules and Discipline Judge, Robert Gerard announced today that Brazilian surfer, Neco Padaratz (currently ranked 27 on the World Championship Tour) has been suspended from professional surfing, effective immediately, until 1 January 2006.

Padaratz will also be stripped of all ASP rating points (on both the WCT and the second tier World Qualifying Series) earned thus far during the 2005 season.

The decision to suspend Padaratz resulted after a drug test, administered by French Drug Testing authorities during the 2004 World Championship Tour event in Hossegor, France showed the athlete had taken performance enhancing anabolic steroids.

Padaratz, who fully cooperated with the testing and the ensuing investigation, claimed that he had taken the prohibited steroids as part of a course of self-treatment for a lingering back injury.

Regardless of his plea, the steroids were in fact performance enhancing and thus it has triggered the ASP's mandatory drug policy for the first time.

The 12-month suspension was made retroactive to 1 January 2005 due to a delay by French Drug Testing Authorities in confirming the test results to the ASP.

The ASP has a "zero tolerance" policy for performance enhancing drugs.

Gerard emphasised that the ASP and its athletes have a strong responsibility toward event sponsors, other athletes, and the sporting public to help ensure responsible athlete behavior.

The ASP is the world governing body for professional surfing since 1976.