Alizé Cornet nailed on “whereabouts” rule

MELBOURNE, Australia – French player Alizé Cornet says she was dope-tested some 20 times during the 2017 season.

Unfortunately, on three occasions when the doping control folks went to her home for an unannounced test, she wasn’t there.

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Three strikes on the “whereabouts” rule, and you’re out. And so after the third one, in October, Cornet may be out for a while pending a hearing in March.

The ITF rushed out a press release after Cornet announced the news on her social media Wednesday.

But it provided little additional information. The ITF confirmed Cornet had failed to be available three times during the 12-month period. And it confirmed it charged her with the violation on Jan. 11, shortly before the Australian Open began.

“In accordance with the TADP rules, no further comment will be made pending determination of the case, except as may be necessary to respond to public comment by Ms. Cornet or her representatives.”

In her note, Cornet said that she missed all three test for “valuable (sic) reasons that the ITF didn’t want to hear.”

(Cornet translated “valable” to “valuable”; in fact, she meant “valid”).

In response to that, the ITF’s press release denied that Cornet’s stated reasons for missing the three testing opportunities went unheard. They wrote that the process, including “the right for the player to request an independent assessment of whether the requirements for such failures were met, was followed in all three instances.”

(They may have misinterpreted Cornet’s statement, or taken her literally. The original expression in French is more likely to mean that while the ITF technically “heard” the reasons, they didn’t accept them as valid. Her French statement also adds “for the moment” to the ITF’s stance).

The immediate consequence of this is that Cornet cannot represent France at the upcoming Fed Cup tie against Belgium at home (the Fed Cup is under the ITF umbrella). She can, however, continue to play WTA Tour events until the matter is heard.

She’s not the only no-show; Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia also won’t play.

Not the first time for Cornet

You’d think, based on her history, that Cornet would never get to the point where she’d have three strikes on the whereabouts charts.

Back in 2013, she had two strikes and talked in a TennisMag interview about feeling as though she had the “sword of Damocles” pointed at her.

“I choose the 6 a.m. morning slot every day, even during tournament periods. That way, I’m sure I’ll be in my bed,” she said. “I refresh the software every day and I try to be very rigorous about this … And yet, I already have two “no shows” hanging over me this year.”

Tennis precedent in Belgium

A failure on the “whereabouts” rule is rare. But it does happen.

The most notorious instances both involved Belgians.

Back in 2009, both Yanina Wickmayer and countryman Xavier Malisse were suspended a year by their national federation for failing the whereabouts rule. 

The case dragged on for a long time. And it got complicated. First, a Belgian court suspended the bans so they could resume competing. Then, WADA was set to appeal the suspension – wanting two years, rather than one.

Two years later, they appealed to a higher court in Belgium to have the ongoing investigation suspended. There was an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it was never heard.

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