Wilander fails in court

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The Independent Online
Tennis

Mats Wilander and Karel Novacek will face an independent tribunal next month to determine whether they tested positive for cocaine, as alleged, during last year's French Open. If found guilty, they would be suspended for three months, missing the French Open and Wimbledon.

The players' American lawyers failed at the High Court in London yesterday to obtain an injunction to stop the International Federation from proceeding with its case against them. The independent tribunal originally had been arranged for January.

Neither player was in court, but Wilander, the former world No 1 from Sweden, and Novacek, a Czech Davis Cup player, deny the allegations and say that the tests were flawed. They argued that their urine samples had been mishandled and alleged that the ITF failed to provide evidence on which the charges are based.

The court ruled that there was evidence to show that the ITF had followed accepted practice in handling the urine samples. Mr Justice Lightman revealed that the urine sample said to be provided by Wilander had tested positive for cannabis, which is not a prohibited substance, as well as cocaine.

On 12 March, the lawyers representing Wilander and Novacek were given a provisional date of 4 June for a court hearing concerning the players' allegations that the ITF's anti-doping programme was in breach of contract and a restraint of trade.

Potentially, the action could have brought into question the right of international sports governing bodies to conduct their own anti-doping programmes. The ITF appealed for the right to re-convene the independent tribunal before the civil case went to court. This was upheld yesterday.

"We welcome the court's decision," Debbie Jevans, administrator of ITF's anti-doping programme, said "and we will now be establishing the appeals committee, which will consist of three people who are independent of the ITF and the anti-doping programme.''

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