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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal weigh in on Viktor Troicki’s doping ban

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Viktor Troicki

Viktor Troicki is appealing his 18-month ban for failing to provide a blood test. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

SHANGHAI — With the Court of Arbitration for Sport set to hear former world No. 12 Viktor Troicki’s appeal of his 18-month suspension Wednesday for failing to provide a requested blood sample, the tour’s drug-testing protocols have been a hot topic of discussion.

Last week, Novak Djokovic revealed that he signed a petition demanding reform of the doping rules to provide more clarity for players. The ITF has indicated that it plans to amend the rules to give players an opportunity to speak to a tournament supervisor or referee to clarify their responsibilities when a drug test is requested.

Roger Federer’s stance on anti-doping protocols is a simple one: Do whatever it takes to catch and discourage cheaters. He has little sympathy for players skipping tests.

“I want it as tough as possible, as many tests as possible,” he said Wednesday after beating Andreas Seppi in his opening match at the Shanghai Masters. “You’re not allowed to skip tests. I don’t care what the circumstances are, except if they’re super extreme, like you’re in the hospital already. But I just think when you get tested, you show up, you do it, you move on. It doesn’t matter what time of the day or where it is.”

Federer was unaware of Djokovic’s specific calls for change.

“I just know it needs to be extremely tough and the punishments need to be severe,” Federer said, “because you want the athletes not to think about, ‘Is it worth it because I’ll get away with it and the punishment will not be so big.’ So I’m just all for anything it takes to catch the bad people.”

In Troicki’s case, a he-said-she-said situation that pits his version of events against the doping control officer’s, Djokovic’s concern centers on the lack of recourse for players when they believe the officer has misrepresented what happened. He went so far as to say that the doping control officer was “lying a lot” when she told the ITF’s independent tribunal that she never told an ill Troicki he was allowed to skip a requested blood test at the Monte Carlo Masters in April. Troicki, a 27-year-old from Serbia, gave a blood test the next day and the results came back clean.

“I think that if the person who is there doing the control said, ‘Yes, Viktor, you can to do it tomorrow,’ he did it the next day and everything was fine, I don’t see a case here,” Rafael Nadal said after beating Alexandr Dolgopolov in his first match in Shanghai.

Much like Djokovic, Nadal did not understand the alleged lack of clarity from the doping control officer.

“If Viktor said, ‘I don’t want to do it today,’ the [doping control officer] had to say, ‘OK, if you don’t do it today, you will be penalized and you will not do it tomorrow,’” Nadal said.

Troicki’s coach, Jack Reader, was in the room for part of his player’s meeting with the doping control officer.

“I know he asked twice if there would be any problems and she said, ‘No, should be fine,’ and I left that room thinking it was all done with,” Reader told USA Today. “And that’s not the case obviously. She should have said, ‘Well, Mr. Troicki, if you don’t take the blood test, there will be consequences. You will face a two-year ban plus loss of points and loss of prize money.’ And then nobody in their right mind is going to take that chance.”

The ITF’s independent tribunal, however, heard Reader’s testimony and didn’t find him to be a credible witness. Reader, the tribunal said, “was prepared to say whatever he felt would be likely to assist his player in avoiding a sanction for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.”

Djokovic said the case is “very unfair” to Troicki, his good friend and countryman.

“It all comes down to who said what and who believes in who,” Djokovic said last week at the China Open in Beijing. “It’s just not fair toward the players. There has to be I guess technology or a camera or an additional person in the room while you’re doing the test, because [without it] the player has no rights. Maybe he’s trying get as much proof that he can, but in the end it’s his word against the word of the people who are authorized.”

This post has been updated.

  • Published On Oct 09, 2013
  • 20 comments
    frankxie88
    frankxie88

    My question is who tested him the next day. If the tester is the same person and Viktor should be spared.  Why did she test him the next day?! People should use some common sense. I believed the tester screwed up and wanted to cover her mistake by punishing Viktor.

    kvakma
    kvakma

    DRUG TESTING IS NOT A COMPLICATED DYNAMIC------ and a "zero tolerance chain of custody" protocol is very simple and as secure as possible Too much talk and not enough action as there are too many "Rulers" and too few "Followers" ! A urine sample is requested and only immediate compliance avoids automatic punative measures. All players are responsible for having signed this contract every January for the next 12 months...failure for not doing so also resuts in punative measures. These players want to be paid well, they must be accountable in addition to winning.

    alexalex
    alexalex

    At the time of his alleged test avoidance Viktor was ranked 50-something...comming straight from USA where he played Davis Cup against USA. He contracted a virus, board the plane, played the next day terrible match in Monte Carlo against Nieminen, barily moving on the court. That is why he have asked to be spared that one time after more than 80 times in his proffesional carrier giving both blood and urin samples. This is a fact. I do not see any difference being issued a speading ticket or fine for crossing the street away from lights...This does not make us bad persons or drug users....Common they did not allow the guy to watch in person Davis Cup semifanals..this is against human rights...    

    Jewell
    Jewell

    Did Matt Cronin write this?  There's something of a story here that doesn't fully exist when I read the full transcripts of what Roger and Rafa were asked and what they said.

    Here's Roger's:"Q.  Last week Novak was talking about wanting to see some changes within doping control, related to the Troicki case, that there needs to be some sort of check that allows players to skip a test.  What are your thoughts on the current protocols in terms of how tests are issued and whether or not there needs to be any changes in the system?

    ROGER FEDERER:  Oh, big debate.  Where do you want me to start?  I want it as tough as possible, as many tests as possible.  You're not allowed to skip tests.  I don't care what the circumstances are, except if they're super extreme, you're in the hospital already, whatever.  But I just think, yeah, I mean, when you get tested, you show up, you do it, you move on.  Doesn't matter what time of the day, where it is.  It's got to be human, not criminal in a way.  That they treat you nice, not unfair but tough.  That's fine, you know.  They always know where we are.  It has already increased so much ever since I came on tour.  Things were much more mellow.  I remember one day they were waiting in front of my house at 10:00 in the morning.  I left at 9:00.  I came back at 10:30 and they were still waiting there and about to leave.  I did the doping test then.  For their sake now I think it's better and easier for them to come and find us and test us.  That's the way it's supposed to be.  I don't know exactly what Novak said or anybody says.  I just know it needs to be extremely tough and the punishments need to be severe because you want the athletes not to think about is it worth it because I'll get away with it and the punishment will not be so big.  So I'm just all for anything it takes to catch the bad people."

    (note the original question totally misrepresented Djokovic's position, and that Roger was talking generally and not about the details of the Troicki case)

    And here's Rafa's:

    "Q. Viktor Troicki’s case is up for appeal today. What is your opinion as to whether or not of the 18 month suspension was too harsh.

    RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think that if the guy who is there doing the control said, Yes, Viktor, you going to do it tomorrow, he did it the next day, everything was fine, I don’t see no one case here.But what means for me that Viktor is right. The person from there allowed Viktor to do the next day. That’s something that I don’t understand. If Viktor said, I don’t want to do it today, the guy from there had to say, Okay, if you don’t do it today, you will be penalized and you will not do it tomorrow.What’s strange for me is he was able to do it the next day. That’s something I don’t understand. I understand the penalization, but I don’t understand why he was able to do it the next day."

    (note that Roger and Rafa were asked completely different questions, which seems worth acknowledging.)

    I would not personally say that these musings, somewhat conditional and speculative - "If the guy who is there doing the control..." and expressing doubts about the process were enough to say "Rafael Nadal backed Troicki."   And I'm disappointed, Courtney, that you left out the last sentence of "I understand the penalization..."

    This is why fans need transcripts.  I used to be sympathetic to the 24 hour embargo but the number of times I've seen stuff like this makes me feel slightly more militant.  Once the headlines are written they tend to stick in people's heads, regardless of full context and details that appear later.

    yadhunath
    yadhunath

    I think it's important to understand that Troicki had not tested positive before and he had not skipped a test before this incident. Even in this case, he tested okay the following day. There should be a clear warning not to skip tests in future rather than keeping him out of matches for 18 months. The spirit of the rule is to keep cheats out, simple. Is there compelling reason to believe that he cheated, which is 'No'. Then, spare the guy rather than assume he is guilty and spoil his career!

    alexalex
    alexalex

    I think we are missing the most important fact > the length of Viktors punishment. He is wrong of not taking the test but acquitting him for 18 months is so severe, and very unusual. Marin Cilic got 9 months for taking glucose or whatever, Gaske overturned his 2 years ban for testing positive on cocaine... Agassi publicly announced in his book that he took drugs at least for 2 Grand slams and nothing happened...they stripped Armstrong of everything but no one asked Agassi to return his slams... Viktor should pay the huge fine for braking the rule and that would be OK. as for Roger, he is turning into Grumpy old man...I am sick of him and his selfishness...

    Alex42
    Alex42

    Then why she have done the test day after? If he refused to have a test you are guilty and thats it. No second try. Unless she really told him come tomorrow its fine i will be waiting.

    tennis.fan
    tennis.fan

    You should have asked Federer why he has a missed test in the 2009 ITF statistics. It was out of competition and you only get banned if you miss 3 of those, but it would have been interesting to know if it was caused by an extreme situation or something else...

    wildflower
    wildflower

    The question here isn't should Troicki have given his blood sample. Of course he should have. The question is did the authorized person told him he could do it tomorrow. If she did then he shouldn't be penalized for it no matter what. If she didn't than that's another story. The problem is they are saying different things and in that case it's about who you believe. And you shouldn't ruin anybody's career based on something you don't know. And we don't know who's telling the truth here.

    pat.davis148
    pat.davis148

    It's a shame Djokovic got dragged into giving an opinion on this, ditto the coach Mr. Reader.  I'm afraid we have to view their responses as an effort to clear their man, right or wrong.  Their loyalty would be commended under different circumstances, but there's no reason a player can't make the appointment to be tested.  Quite agree with Roger too.  It's part of your job, just like giving a presser.  Do it and move on.  Troicki has slipped of late, so I would imagine the temptations are great to get that extra edge.

    SabaSaeedSheikh
    SabaSaeedSheikh

    I'm very sorry to hear of Nadal and Djokovic's stance. Its a straightforward affair, either you test positive for a banned substance or you don't. Nobody can declare you guilty if the test is negative. Why didn't Troicki take the test when he was asked to? To fight this problem you have to be responsible, and i don't give a fie for the excuses being presented by Nadal and Djokovic. Roger Federer's stance is absolutely correct here. Make it as tough as possible and do everything to stop this nuisance.

    SamLouiseG
    SamLouiseG

    I stand with Roger's opinion. It would seem unfair to athletes who follow the rules respectfully and show up on the dot for these tests while others get lenient treatment. The rules are there for a reason. 

    Tom14
    Tom14

    @Jewell Well if he was sick and taking anti-biotic's well then the tester should write a report saying what the player was on and the condition he was in. If the test was taken they could find out what cold remedy he was taking. If he postponed it a day then the tester would have a record instead of both parties being so vague.

    anonymous59
    anonymous59

    Thanks for the full presentation of what was really asked and said. The PED discussion is necessary and, given the less than water tight practics of the ITF, inevitable. But I'm sick and tired of the sly spins and innuendos of many journos. And just my two cents: Troicki's behavior was silly and wrong. BUT if the officer really told him, he could come back the next day, then she blew it, and Troicki should get away with it. He should get acquitted because of a technicality, so to speak. That they tested him at all the next morning, lends some credibilty to Troicki's version IMO. That the test came back negative, is completely irrelevant, because there are many ways to clean your body overnight.

    TooPawned
    TooPawned

    @SabaSaeedSheikh The point is that SHE let him not do the test. Yes, players should be forced to do the test, that's not the point. The point is he asked her if he can do it tomorrow, and SHE SAID YES. They lied that she didn't say so just to protect her a22. That's the whole point. I think every doping test should be recorded on camera(audio/video).

    NellieAthome
    NellieAthome

    @SamLouiseG  So you think it is fair that someone who tested clean gets a longer suspension than someone who tested positive for cocaine?

    Jewell
    Jewell

    @anonymous59 A lot of the MS tournaments put up pressers on their websites, or asapsports.com often has them - usually 24 hours after they're given.

    kvakma
    kvakma

    These are 2 different issues....