LONDON (Reuters) - Serbia’s Viktor Troicki said his dream of being a “top player” had been taken away after his ban for missing a blood test was reduced to 12 months from 18 on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old former world No.12 was suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in July for failing to provide a sample at the Monte Carlo Masters in April but immediately declared his innocence and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to overturn the ban.
Despite CAS partially upholding his appeal Troicki was disappointed with the outcome.
“I hoped that the most difficult period of my career and of my life would be over, and I really trusted the judges I met in Lausanne,” Troicki said in a statement.
”I had the feeling that they were really looking for the truth and that they had found it during the hearing.
“Now this decision puts an end to my dreams of being a top player, of reaching the ATP finals and fighting against the best in the world. I worked my entire life for it, and it has been taken away from me in one afternoon by a doctor I didn’t know.”
Troicki’s defense was that he had been told by a doping control official in Monte Carlo that he did not have to provide a blood sample because he was feeling unwell after his defeat and suffered from a needle phobia.
The official in question, Elena Gorodilova, disputes Troicki’s version of events in evidence supplied to CAS, saying whether or not he was entitled to skip the blood test was “not her decision to make”.
CAS said Troicki, a member of the Serbia team which won the Davis Cup in 2010, was not “significantly” at fault although that will be no comfort to the Serb who will not be able to resume his career until July 15.
He received strong support from his Serbia team mates including Novak Djokovic and had hoped that the ban might be overturned so that he could compete in next week’s Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic in Belgrade.
“I am shocked with the verdict,” Serbia’s Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic said on the B92 website (www.b92.net).
”I am shocked because it amounts to destroying the career of a young athlete, an exceptional tennis player and a good lad.
“I think he deserved nothing of the sort, especially given the fact that some of his peers have got away with more serious offences. Some of them had their bans drastically reduced and (Croatian Marin) Cilic is the latest example, while Viktor didn’t even take illegal substances.”
ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti defended the original decision on Tuesday, saying it underlined the commitment to protect the “integrity” of tennis.
“We respect the ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport who confirmed the decision of the Independent Tribunal that Viktor Troicki is guilty of an anti-doping violation, although they reduced the penalty to one year,” he said.
“What is harder to accept is criticism of Doping Control Officers who perform a difficult role.”
Explaining its decision in a statement CAS accepted that there had been confusion between the doping control officer (DOC) and Troicki and said it was “surprised” that the doping control officer had not called for a representative from the ATP once Troicki had refused to take the test.
“The CAS panel considered that the DCO should have informed the player in clearer terms of the risks caused by his refusal to undergo a blood test, but that, despite the misunderstanding between the player and the DCO, there was no suggestion that Mr Troicki intended to evade the detection of a banned substance in his system,” it said.
Troicki said he hoped to return to the sport once he had served his ban.
“Regarding the CAS I can only say that they are humans, and they probably didn’t have the courage to go against the ITF releasing me and putting ITF in a bad situation,” he said.
”I am sure they feel bad about it, but in the end they will all go back to their jobs tomorrow, including Doctor Gorodilova, and I won‘t.
“I have no idea about what to do now or where to go. I hope somehow I will be able to fight back.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond