Court suspends ban for Wickmayer and Malisse

Court suspends ban for Wickmayer and Malisse

Published Dec. 14, 2009 9:20 p.m. ET

A Belgian court on Monday suspended the one-year bans handed to tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse for violating anti-doping rules.

Wickmayer's lawyers hope the injunction will make 16th-ranked Wickmayer eligible to play as soon as possible. The U.S. Open semifinalist hopes to receive a wildcard for the Australian Open.

Wickmayer and Malisse were suspended by a Belgian court on Nov. 5 for breaking World Anti-Doping Agency rules by failing to report their whereabouts for drug testing three times. The International Tennis Federation imposed the bans worldwide.

Wickmayer's lawyer, Kristof De Saedeleer, said it was ``logical'' to scrap the ban if the original ruling was suspect.


It was unclear when a full ruling would be announced.

The ITF said it based its ban on the local anti-doping tribunal's decision. De Saedeleer said that by suspending the original ruling, the Brussels court made it clear that tennis authorities no longer had a legal basis to justify their penalty.

``The ITF took its decision based on a ruling that now cannot be enforced,'' he said. ``It would be a logical consequence'' if both players were reinstated.

``This was a first step to make sure our players can be on court as soon as possible again,'' he said.

Even though the entries for next month's Australian Open have been closed, a wild-card berth is still a possibility for Wickmayer if quick action is taken.

``This is why the coming hours are very important,'' said her spokesman, Rudi Kuyl.

Wickmayer and Malisse have already asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the bans. A ruling is expected in the next three months.

The 20-year-old Wickmayer claims she was not properly informed of the online reporting requirements for drug-testing that led to her ban.

Beyond the Belgian legal system and CAS, Wickmayer's lawyers are launching appeals with European authorities questioning the legality of WADA's rules.

Victory at the European Commission in Brussels and the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights could force WADA to drastically change its rules on when and where athletes can be tested out of competition.

The ``whereabouts'' rule is a cornerstone of WADA's policies. It 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.


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