Troicki suspended 18 months for skipped blood test

Viktor Troicki has been banned 18 months by the International Tennis Federation for skipping a blood test this spring in Monte-Carlo. Troicki claims he was informed by a doctor that he would be allowed to skip the test because he was feeling ill on that particular day.

“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,” the Serb explained. “She dictated the letter to me and let me go without giving blood. She was very helpful and understanding…. Now I am being charged for refusing to undergo a blood test without justification. This is a real nightmare.

“I am 100 percent sure that the court of arbitration in Lausanne will consider my good faith and my total innocence,” Troicki continued, referring to his upcoming appeal. “But now, this enormous sanction makes me speechless. It feels like the world that I help building day by day has let me down. It is the worst feeling you can imagine.”

ITF Press release

Troicki’s response

37 Comments on Troicki suspended 18 months for skipped blood test

  1. Drug testing in tennis is an absolute joke.

    Why exactly would feeling ill exempt a player from giving a blood test? Seriously? Not like they are asking him to run a marathon. It’s a blood test.

    As a professional, it is a tennis player’s responsibility to understand the rules, especially rules important enough to impact your career.

    I fully expect the ITF to reduce his suspension (like they usually do).


  2. It seems awfully harsh to me, if it’s a first offence, which makes me think we’re not getting the whole story.
    And IF he is using, and it’s a big IF, not doing him much good is it?

  3. I posted the article from Marca on Troicki on the Winby thread because there was nowhere else to post it.

  4. Fear of needles or not…


    That said, is tennis the only sport with virtually ZERO high profile PED/doping suspensions.

  5. Does anyone remember about Gasquet? Wasn’t he suspended for supposed cocaine use? All I remember is that Rafa supported him.
    I think that illness is a very poor excuse for skipping a blood test. However 18 months is a really long time.

  6. My post just disappeared. I don’t know why.
    Anyway, using illness as an excuse is really lame. However, 18 months seems harsh. Does anyone remember what happened to Gasquet some years ago? Wasn’t he suspended because of supposedly using cocaine? I do remember that Rafa supported him.

  7. Excerpt from a great article in The Scotsman…

    “During this Wimbledon, Tomas Berdych, ranked sixth in the world, was asked what he thought about his sport’s policing of anti-doping. “It cannot be worse,” he said. Last year, Djokovic revealed that he had not been blood tested for six or seven straight months, a statement that was supported by other top players who feel that the ITF are asleep at the wheel, who feel that Miller’s assertion that tennis is in a “good place to detect instances of doping” is bunkum.

    The ITF spend less and less money on anti-doping, the absence of many positive tests seemingly their reason for cutting down their costs year on year when many elite performers are telling them that the problem is rising, not falling.

    “I’m sure there are guys who are doing it, getting away with it, and getting ahead of the testers,” said the American player James Blake last year. “I’m realistic that, with this much money involved, people will try to find a way to get ahead.”

    They don’t need to try that hard in tennis. The number of tests carried out is woefully low, the number of out-of-competition tests and blood tests is so far behind other sports that it is easy to conclude that tennis doesn’t want to catch anybody, that they are happy to have substandard testing that will allow them to carry on with the pretence that their sport is largely clean.

    Pretty much says it all really.


  8. Troicki’s comments post the CAS ruling:

    It is understandable Troicki feels he has been victimised after the CAS accepted Cilic’s version of events but not his. Cilic was able to claim innocence of wrong doing because it was impossible to prove he KNOWINGLY took a banned substance.

    Whether Troicki had an ulterior motive for refusing to give a blood test will never be known but the rules are unequivocal – when asked to do so a player must comply.
    In his case it was impossible to prove HE HAD NOT TAKEN a banned substance.

    Interesting distinction.

  9. WADA Conference this week:

    The World Anti-Doping Agency is organizing the 2013 World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is the fourth edition of the World Conference on Doping in Sport. The conference begins on Tuesday and concludes on Friday. Around the Rings reporter Edward Hula III will be on the scene in Johannesburg to cover news coming out of the conference.

  10. Clearly I’ve revealed myself as a bit of a lightweight by owning up to losing the will to live after a dozen or so pages of legalese 🙁

    • No,ed, tastes are just different, and your link has merits as well as a good shortcut, But the CAS decision is definitely interesting and worth reading, if you have ploughed through all the formalities in the first few pages. There are a few details, like time lines in there, which I didn’t know, or the fact, that the doctor by her own admission didn’t even really talk to Troicki’s coach, when he entered the room, while Viktor was writing the letter. If I had been in that position, I would’ve raised hell, and would’ve tried to persuade the coach to teach his stubborn player the possible consequences of his noncompliance. But instead of doing that, she just assumed calmly, that Victor’s mind couldn’t be changed anyway. On the whole, this CAS ruling seems very reasonable to me. The only point, where I completely disagree, is the finding, that there didn’t seem to be any intention of Victor to evade a positive test. That, we simply cannot know, since the sample, which Victor supplied a day later, was completely worthless. They wanted to test for HGH, which has a small detection window. If Victor had remnants of this drug in his blood at the day, they wanted to test him, it could have cleared the body less than 24 hours later. so, we will never know.

      • Legally, the finding of “fact” is not the same as “truth.” The appeals panel has the full power to review all findings of fact “de novo,” meaning anew or starting again. In 9:11, once they made the finding that “….the athlete sincerely believed that he had received the DCO’s assurance that, even if he did not submit a blood sample on that day, he would not commit an offence,” there would be no way for them to subsequently find that Victor had rejected taking the test in an attempt to avoid a positive result. The “fact” in quotations would not support a “fact” of evasion with the intent of avoiding positive results. Absent any evidence to the contrary, the court’s finding was consistent. Given the case as presented, I agree with the panel’s findings.

  11. Jpa & Littlefoot

    Thanks for the translations! It’s unfortunate the two cases (Cilic and Troicki) happened in tandem. Unless you are able to grasp the legal intricacies it is understandable lay people have difficulty comprehending why the former was exonerated and the latter punished.

    At the end of the day it beggars belief that two highly ranked players could be (to quote Andy Murray) “so unprofessional”. Both transgressed clearly defined guidelines which resulted in the stigma of coming under suspicion for doping. Regardless of the CAS findings, it is hard to believe this will not have a negative impact on their careers.

  12. ed, Victor and Marin behaved in a very unprofessional way indeed. Completely agree with you. But back to Victor’s case: There are indications, that Victor, from his point of view had reasons to believe, that he had received reassurances from the doctor. And once the panel conceded that, and believed, that Victor truly thought, it would be ok to skip, it was irrelevant, why Victor wanted to skip the test. Personally, I believe, that the doctor’s behaviour wasn’t above criticism at all. Hopefully, there will be procedural changes in the future, so that these kind of scenarios can be avoided. The panel adressed this. As it is, I think, the ruling is very reasonable and Novak should stop bitching about it.

  13. I agree that by her own admission the doctor was less than pro-active in her handling of the situation but equally Troicki knew the score: I mean if ordinary tennis fans are aware of the basic rules of the drug controls I find it hard to swallow that he thought he could avoid the blood test. Do you know in what language they were speaking? His evidence rested very much on his interpretation of what was said (or not said). The simple expedient of installing video surveillance at the control centre could resolve such disputes in the future.

    I think we’ve probably exhausted this topic for the time being 😉

  14. Ed: The potential for misunderstanding due to language issues was one of the first questions I had. It was actually addressed in a roundabout way. Troicki’s own attorneys brought up the issue of the doctor’s assistant not being fluent in English and therefore could not be a credible witness to the events that took place. Therefore, we know that they communicated in English. The letter that Troicki wrote was in English and at no time did Troicki’s attorneys ever assert that the “misunderstanding” may have been due to either the doctor’s or Viktor’s command, or lack thereof, of the English language. The only mention of language is on page 13, 8.6.2 subparagraph iv.

  15. The reason I asked is I seem to recall in the early statements by Troicki that the doctor said ‘it should be alright if he wrote a letter’. This became she told him ‘it will be alright’ in his later testimonies. If the former were the case then it is easy to see why he claimed she was letting him off the hook. The use of the conditional tense is not understood by many people even in their own language.

  16. Thank you, Simon Briggs, for telling it like it is:

    “But let us turn to tennis, where world No 2 Novak Djokovic recently accused a doping control officer of being “negligent and unprofessional”, and no one in authority even blinked.

    What a perfect illustration of the sport’s lack of leadership.

    In football or cricket, dissent is an offence, even if it happens in the heat of battle. Steve Bruce and Jose Mourinho are among the managers fined by the Football Association in the past month alone.

    Yet at last week’s end-of-season showcase at the O2 Arena, Djokovic came into the interview room with what was effectively a prepared statement, and did all he could to undermine the credibility of Dr Elena Gorodilova, a woman who has spent 15 years in her post. If tennis had a hint of gumption, he would have faced disciplinary action. “

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