Tennis: WTA calls for changes to ’whereabouts’ rule
By JOCELYN GECKER
Associated Press Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — The head of the WTA wants changes to certain anti-doping rules, notably the stringent “whereabouts” rule that initially led to a one-year ban for Yanina Wickmayer.
Wickmayer has appealed the ban and was allowed to play at the Australian Open and other tournaments while the appeal is pending in the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the European Commission.
“There are rules in place and professional athletes have to follow the rules. Do the rules need to be changed? Yes, we are advocating for changes as it relates to (the) whereabouts program,” Stacey Allaster, the chairman and CEO of the women’s tennis tour, said Friday.
Wickmayer was banned in November for breaking World Anti-Doping Agency regulations by failing three times to report her whereabouts for drug testing.
She never failed a doping test, and claimed that she was not properly informed of the online reporting requirements for drug-testing that led to her ban. She said that letters notifying her of her breach of the rule were sent to her home in Belgium while she was in Australia.
Wickmayer appealed to a Belgian court and the controversial suspension was lifted last month. But the cutoff for main draw entries at the season’s first Grand Slam had already passed, so she had to go the qualifying route. Wickmayer would have been seeded No. 16 for the Australian Open based on her ranking. She lost in the fourth round to Justine Henin.
“Everyone in the sport has zero tolerance for doping,” Allaster said. “I think the whereabouts program is good. Some of the procedures in the whereabouts program need to be modified for our sport.”
WADA’s “whereabouts” rule requires elite athletes to make themselves available — at times they can specify — for out-of-competition testing on any given day. They must give three months’ notice of where they will be so they can be tested at random.
Three missed tests results in an automatic ban.
Many athletes have spoken out against the system since it was imposed at the beginning of last 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.
The women’s tennis circuit includes 53 tournaments for 10 months of the year.
“During competition, we know where they are, they’re here. They don’t know if they’re going to win a match or not. They don’t know when they’re going to get their practice court. It’s very difficult to keep that system updated,” Allaster said. “If WADA wants to come in, or a national doping association wants to come in and test them, all they have to do is look at the schedule.
“That’s where we’ve been saying, what works for all sports doesn’t work for our sport procedurally when they are in competition. And they are in competition 10 months of the year,” she said.