ITF lifts one-year ban; clears Wickmayer, Malisse
LONDON: The US Open semi-finalist Yanina Wickmayer earned a major off-court victory today when officials lifted her one-year ban for violating anti-doping rules.
The 20-year-old Belgian was banned in November for breaking World Anti-Doping Agency regulations by failing to report her whereabouts for drug testing three times. Another Belgian, 2002 Wimbledon semi-finalist Xavier Malisse, was banned at the same time and also had his suspension lifted today.
"The ITF has removed both Mr Malisse and Ms Wickmayer from the list of suspended players, and both are eligible to participate with immediate effect," the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said in a statement. Neither player failed a doping test, and Wickmayer claims she was not properly informed of the online reporting requirements for drug-testing that led to her ban. On Monday, the pair won an injunction in Belgium against the bans, which were imposed by a Belgian court on November 5. Because the injunction suspended the decision of the Belgian national anti-doping agency, the ITF said it was forced to lift the ban. "As a signatory to the WADA Code, the ITF is required to give wider recognition to decisions within the authority of other signatories," the ITF said.
After Monday's court ruling in Belgium, Wickmayer was offered a wildcard to play at the ASB Classic, a tournament in New Zealand that serves as a warmup for the Australian Open. She is also hoping to get another wildcard for the season's first Grand Slam tournament in Melbourne.
WADA's "whereabouts" rule requires elite athletes to make themselves available for out-of-competition testing for one hour a day, 365 days a year. They must give three months' notice of where they will be so they can be tested. Many athletes have spoken out against the system since it was imposed at the beginning of the year, saying it violates their right to privacy, and 65 athletes in Belgium started court proceedings against the whereabouts system, citing the European Convention on Human Rights. WADA director general David Howman has said the rule will be reviewed at the end of the year.