Wickmayer and Malisse launch legal attack on WADA

Suspended Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse are launching appeals with European authorities that will question the legality of the whereabout rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency, one of their lawyers said Sunday.

The cases come on top of the appeal before the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn their one-year suspension. 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 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.

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

Wickmayer, 20, received a one-year ban for failing to correctly report where she could be found for testing three times. The 16th-ranked player said she never missed a test nor tested positive.

Malisse, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2002, missed one test and twice failed to report his whereabouts. At 29, he said 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 the policies of the World Anti-Doping Agency. 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.

Those sanctions are excessive, Dupont said.

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

According to WADA, it is necessary to test athletes out of competition too since many banned substance can become untraceable by the time a competition starts. And since some athletes sought to hide from testers between competitions, the agency instituted the “whereabouts” rule to make sure they can be tested at all times.

Wickmayer has said she was never properly informed how the system works and is now punished like a doping cheat without ever testing 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 her career over.

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