Tennis: Korda wins but ITF will launch appeal

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The Independent Online
PETR KORDA has won the latest round in his fight to avoid a year's ban for a positive drugs test at Wimbledon last summer. Mr Justice Lightman ruled in the High Court in London yesterday that the International Tennis Federation did not have the right to take Korda to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

The ITF intends to challenge Mr Justice Lightman's decision in the Court of Appeal.

On 21 December Korda was fined his Wimbledon prize money (pounds 59,080) and docked his world ranking points by the ITF's independent appeals committee after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone following his defeat by Britain's Tim Henman in the quarter-finals. But Korda was not given a statutory one-year suspension.

The ITF's appeals panel cited "exceptional circumstances". Korda said he did not know how the banned substance found its way into his body. The ITF, amid criticism from leading players that Korda had been treated leniently, said the appeals committee had misapplied the regulations, and lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Mr Justice Lightman said in his view the ITF rules did not allow them to act as they had intended. "It is difficult to believe it could be intended that there should be a second full-scale appeal, with the enormous costs, inconvenience to the parties and witnesses and delay which this would involve," he said.

He also considered it was difficult to believe that the rules were intended to create a situation where a player should be subject to "double jeopardy" and required to face a retrial.

That was the point made by Korda's lawyer, Charles Flint, who said the ITF, under its own anti-doping programme, had no right in law to appeal the decision, which was "final and binding" on both sides and "is designed to provide for speedy and final determination of disputes as to allegations of doping before an independent expert committee".

The judge granted the ITF leave to appeal, and an ITF statement confirmed that it would pursue the case. "The ITF is disappointed that it is currently not able on a legal technicality to appeal the decision of the Appeals Committee at the Court of Arbitration for Sport," it said. "Arguments at the High Court were confined to the technicality, and in particular to the meaning the court attributed to the word dispute.

Korda is now preparing to play in the forthcoming ATP Tour tournaments in Dubai (8 February), Rotterdam (15 February) and Battersea Park, London (22 February).