Wickmayer and Malisse launch legal attack on WADA

Suspended Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse are launching appeals with European authorities challenging the legality of the whereabouts rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

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

“The indispensable fight against doping is not the issue here. The problem is the lack of proportionality of certain measures,” their lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The athletes are already appealing their one-year bans before the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Dupont was the lawyer of Belgian soccer player Jean-Marc Bosman, and secured the 1995 ruling of the European Court of Justice that forced FIFA to drastically change its transfer rules and limits on foreign players.

The 20-year-old Wickmayer, a U.S. Open semifinalist, was banned for failing three times to correctly report where she could be found for testing. The 16th-ranked player said she never missed a test or tested positive.

Malisse, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2002, missed one test and twice failed to report his whereabouts. The 29-year-old says the one-year suspension could end his career.

“No one has accused them of doping, yet their careers are shattered,” Dupont said.

“The European Union treaty gives them the right to freely ply their trade and play throughout Europe. This right is now disproportionally violated,” he said, explaining the complaints to EU authorities.

The controversial “whereabouts” rule is a cornerstone of WADA policy. 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.

If an athlete misses three out-of-competition tests or fails three times to register where he will be for anti-doping tests, sanctions can be imposed.

Many athletes contend the system violates their right to privacy, while WADA says the fight against doping benefits all athletes and supersedes that right.

WADA says it is necessary to test athletes out of competition because many banned substances are undetectable by the time a competition starts. The agency instituted the “whereabouts” rule to catch athletes who were doping between competitions.

Wickmayer has said she was never properly informed how the system works and is now being punished like a doping cheat without ever having tested positive.

“They are taking my work of 10 years away. Just like that. Just because I didn’t fill in (my whereabouts),” she said on Thursday. After the one-year suspension, Wickmayer will have lost her ranking and will be forced to start over.

Wickmayer was suspended last week by a Belgian anti-doping tribunal, which based its decision on the WADA rules.