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.