Viktor Troicki is facing an 18-month ban from competition after the International Tennis Federation found he failed to provide an acceptable justification for refusing to give a blood sample during the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters tournament in April.
The ITF’s decision states that Troicki, 27, was selected to provide both a urine and blood sample on April 15, 2013, after losing in the first round of Monte Carlo to Jarkko Nieminen. Troicki provided the urine sample but did not provide the blood sample because he says he was not feeling well. He claims the doping officer assured him that it was his illness was an acceptable reason not to provide a sample.
The independent tribunal hearing the case rejected Troicki’s defense, concluding that the doping offer told him that she could not determine whether his excuse was valid and that she did not make any such assurances. The tribunal found he failed to provide a “compelling justification” for his failure to provide a requested blood sample constituted an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.3 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. Under the rule, “[r]efusing or failing without compelling justification to submit to Sample collection after notification of Testing as authorised in applicable anti-doping rules, or otherwise evading Sample collection,” constitutes an anti-doping violation.
However, the tribunal also ruled that the circumstances entitled Troicki to a mitigated penalty because he bore “no significant fault or negligence.” Accordingly, his two-year ban was reduced to 18 months, and he will be eligible to return to competition on January 24, 2015. His Monte Carlo results have also been disqualified, resulting in forfeiture of rankings points and prize money from that event, where he lost in the first round to Jarkko Nieminen, 6-1, 6-2.
Troicki says he will appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He reiterated that the doping officer assured him that he could delay his blood test until the next day and that his coach, Jack Reader, was in the room and witnessed the conversation.
“I was selected for urine and blood test after the match and went to the doping control station after showering and stretching,” Troicki said in a statement. “I gave the urine samples and told the doctor I was feeling really bad and I believed that drawing blood would make me feel even worse. I always feel awful when I need to draw blood and that day I was scared I would end up in hospital.
“The doctor in charge of the testing told me that I looked very pale and ill, and that I could skip the test if I wrote an explanation letter to ITF about it. She dictated the letter to me and let me go without giving blood.”
Troicki says he submitted to a blood test the next morning and claims the samples came back clean.
“The doping rules are strict and they must remain strict. But this was a clear mistake from the on-site doping control officer who was also a doctor, and the person in charge to decide. She let me go and reassured me. In my opinion once she found out that she didn’t follow the procedures she turned her back on me.
“I am clean and will always be clean throughout my career. I just had the wrong doctor who didn’t tell me at all that I was risking anything. She showed me a letter of the ITF saying she is in charge of the decisions and I trusted her completely.”
Troicki says he’s spoken to his fellow players, including Novak Djokovic, and that they all support him in his appeal.
“I am destroyed and exhausted,” Troicki said. “I am not even angry with the doctor. I believe that maybe she was told by her organization that she made a big mistake letting me go she backed up and tried to save her job.”
Currently ranked No. 53, Troicki reached a career-high of No. 12 in 2011. A loyal member of Serbia’s Davis Cup team and a frequent practice partner to ATP No. 1 Djokovic, his best result this year was a run to the fourth round of the French Open, where he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Since Monte Carlo, Troicki has earned over $340,000 in prize money, which he will not be required to forfeit under the ITF’s rules in cases of a refusal to provide a sample.
Competing at the Croatia Open in Umag this week, Troicki lost to Tommy Robredo in the second round and was still in the doubles event when the decision was announced. He has since pulled out of the tournament.
Troicki is the third tennis player to be banned this year by the ITF for a doping violation. Czech WTA player Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova was handed a six-month ban in February for testing positive for sibutramine, a banned stimulant she ingested in a weight-loss supplement. Fernando Romboli, a low-ranked Brazilian player, was also issued a ban in May after testing positive for two diuretics, furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide.