Court suspends tennis ban for Wickmayer, Malisse

BY foxsports • December 17, 2009

A Belgian court Monday suspended the one-year doping bans given to tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse.

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 wild card for the Australian Open.

Shortly after the ruling, she was offered a wild card to the ASB Classic. The Jan. 4-9 tournament in New Zealand serves as a tuneup for the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam event.

``The indication is she wants to play and now we just have to wait for officials to confirm she is allowed to,'' ASB Classic director Brenda Perry said.

Wickmayer and Malisse were suspended by a Belgian court 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's ``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 tennis authorities no longer had a legal basis to justify their penalty.

``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.

``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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