Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 19 News List

‘I’m no drugs cheat’: Wickmayer

AP , AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Rising tennis star Yanina Wickmayer says she isn’t a drugs cheat and blames Belgian doping authorities for the breach of anti-doping regulations that caused her to be banned for a year.

A Belgian court and the International Tennis Federation have since suspended the bans imposed on Wickmayer and compatriot Xavier Malisse last month for breaches of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) whereabouts rule.

The 20-year-old Wickmayer will return to the court as a wild card in next week’s ASB Classic in Auckland, a warmup to next month’s Australian Open.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Wickmayer told New Zealand media she was regularly drug tested during the period she reportedly failed to inform her national anti-doping agency of her whereabouts.

She said she never failed or missed a drug test and the Flemish anti-doping agency Nado Flanders knew her whereabouts because she was playing in a televised tournament in Australia.

Wickmayer rose from 71 to 16 in the world rankings this year. As a top-50 player, she came under WADA’s whereabouts rule, which requires players to notify their whereabouts 365 days a year for out-of-competition testing.

Wickmayer said the requirements of the whereabouts rule had never been adequately explained to her and letters notifying her of her breach of the rule were sent to her home in Belgium while she was in Australia.

She was banned, as was Malisse, when she failed to notify authorities of her whereabouts on three occasions. Her lawyers have since appealed her ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights.

“Maybe I didn’t fill in my whereabouts in Belgium, but I got tested every two or three weeks,” Wickmayer said on Tuesday. “I didn’t fill in that I was in Australia but I was there and I got tested. I never tested positive and I never missed a doping test. I think that is the main thing that is important. That is why they made the system, to catch the ones who test positive and I never did.”

Wickmayer said her alleged breach of rules was a technicality caused by poor communication, the fault of Belgian officials.

“They saw me play on TV in Australia and they kept on sending me letters when they knew I wasn’t able to get them,” she said. “By the time I had three strikes already I didn’t even know I had to fill something out. I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I worked my butt off for the last eight years to be where I am today. Some people just decide to take that all away [for] stupid papers that haven’t been filled out.”

Wickmayer said she had no objection to the rules once she was aware of the requirements.

“There has to be a system like that to keep away the cheaters,” she said. “I am not against the system, I am against the communication. They don’t communicate with us as human beings, they treat us a little bit like robots.”

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