"The whereabouts system is a necessary and legitimate tool."
By Shane Stokes
The UCI has stated its confidence that a court application to ban the WADA whereabouts rule will be dismissed. The measure, taken recently by a group of 65 Belgian athletes, cyclists, soccer and volleyball players against the Flemish regional government seeks to use European Union privacy laws to thrown out the provision.
It is understood that two other legal challenges are being prepared by FIFPro, the umbrella group of footballers' unions
Under the new WADA code introduced on January 1, all sportsmen and women on the drug-testing register must commit to be in a declared location for one hour a day. This time must be noted up to three months in advance and enables testers to arrive unannounced and take samples from the athlete, if selected.
Three missed tests count as a doping violation. However, any changes to the athlete's location may be registered online, via text message or by email.
The sportsmen and women involved are trying to exploit Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concern an individual's right to privacy, to have the rule declared invalid. Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal – who has rejected rumours that he was a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes – has said that he is prepared to join the 65 Belgian sportspeople in resisting the WADA provision.
The world number one, vice president of the ATP Player Council, claimed that "it is an intolerable hunt. We have proved that we are a clean sport. You can count (doping) cases with one hand."
However, the UCI feels that the court application will be dismissed. "We are confident that the whereabouts information system will stand the legal test," its spokesman Enrico Carpani told Cyclingnews this week.
"The system works well in cycling and the UCI congratulates the riders on their cooperation. It shows that athletes that care about a doping-free sport accept the system, even if it places a burden on them."
There has been a considerable amount of governmental and inter-governmental backing for the introduction of the WADA measure. "The UNESCO convention and national legislation acknowledge the need for unannounced out-of-competition testing," he continued. "The whereabouts system is a necessary and legitimate tool in an effective fight against doping."
In a related move, WADA director general David Howman this week invited athletes' groups for a meeting to defend the whereabouts rule. He said that the new system should make things easier for athletes, as it requires them to nominate their whereabouts only one hour a day, and provides for notification if they have a change of plans.
Howman called on athletes to educate themselves as to what the WADA code actually requires of them. "Give me a call, or come to one of the meetings. Find out something more before you open your mouth," he told the Associated Press on Thursday.
"There are things that need to be learned, we appreciate that," Howman added. "But make sure you learn all the information before you criticize it."
The Kiwi also said that he felt the WADA code would stand up in court. "We took legal advice to make sure that all the provisions were obeying the laws of proportionality," he stated.