>> Monday, December 14, 2009
Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse may now be able to participate in next month's tennis tournaments after a Belgian court on Monday suspended the doping bans given to them. World #16 Wickmayer may yet be able to play in the 2010 edition of the Australian Open even if the entry list to the first grand slam has already been closed. The US Open semifinalist can receive a wild card for the Australian Open.
The two players were banned for one year by a Belgian court on November 5 for failing to comply with World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. In the previous year, both players have failed to report their whereabouts for drug testing three times. The “whereabouts” rule requires elite athletes to make themselves available for out-of-competition testing for one hour a day, 365 days a year. Under the rules, athletes must give three months’ notice of where and when they can be located for testing. The information is registered online and can be updated by e-mail or text message.
The 20-year-old Wickmayer claims she was not properly informed of the online reporting requirements for drug-testing that led to her ban. WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster was recently asked if Wickmayer is being treated fairly. Here was her reply: "The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is a founding member (together with the ATP and ITF) of the WADA Code, which serves to ensure the competitive fairness of our sport and is globally recognized as a world-class program in protecting the integrity of professional tennis. We support and will enforce the ruling of this independent national tribunal under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program. There is no doubt that this program is not only comprehensive but also rigorous, and it is for this reason that it's considered one of the very best in sports. The program asks a lot of athletes, but we believe that no matter how onerous the requirements may be, the end goal of integrity warrants associated inconveniences."
Allaster did admit that the whereabouts rule may need to be reviewed and that it "should be modified to account for the peculiarities of professional tennis and its players (e.g., 10 months in competition season which makes out-of-competition testing difficult to conduct, along with daily changes to schedule based on matches and on single-elimination format), and we are striving to have such changes adopted. At the end of the day, the Tour fully supports the Program and recognizes the decisions made by independent national tribunals under the WADA Code".
The ITF, the body that manages the Grand Slams, said it based its ban on the local anti-doping tribunal’s decision. By suspending the original ruling, the Brussels court made it clear tennis authorities no longer had a legal basis to justify their penalty.
After the ruling, Wickmayer was offered a wild card to the ASB Classic in New Zealand that runs from January 4-9. The tournament is one of the tune-up tournaments for the Australian Open in Melbourne.
So far, majority of fans have welcomed the suspension of the ban. This blogger thinks that the issue should not have gone overboard if a simple process such as a verbal warning is in place. While I agree that the integrity of the sport should be protected, it should also be done in a sensible manner. Suspending a promising player's right to play for a year for a very possible oversight is nonsense. If they had warned her on her second violation that she is about to be suspended, and she still hasn't complied, then a ban would have been merited.