© Ella Ling

Net detail

The return of Viktor Troicki


Here’s what I’d like to happen when Viktor Troicki faces the media for the first time following his ban for refusing to take an anti-doping blood test, which presumably will happen next week in Gstaad, where the Serb has been given a wildcard into the main draw. Troicki should take some responsbility for his actions.

Will it happen? I hope so, but I doubt it. Having completed his 12-month ban, Troicki is now eligible to return and faces the daunting prospect of starting from scratch, with no ranking points to his name. In a recent interview, he said he was willing to grind away on the lower levels of the Tour and would hope for the odd wildcard into ATP events.

Well, Gstaad, for whatever reason, has seen fit to grant one of its three wildcards to Troicki. Rather than give them to a young, home player with potential, for example, who may in future years return the faith by committing to the event, it has given it to someone who the sport banned for not following the strict anti-doping rule. Is that really the kind of message the sport should be sending out?

Going on what he said in his recent interview, Troicki still feels his ban was unjustified, that the doping control officer who was present at his scheduled test had given him wrong information, saying he could delay it to another day. His sense of injustice is clear and without having been in that room on that day, it’s impossible to know the ins and outs of the entire situation.

If he comes out and says that he should have taken the test – which, after all, is the bottom line given everything we know now about micro-doping and how easy it is to flush drugs from your system within a few hours – that would be a massive step forward.

Everyone deserves a second chance but the fact is that the sport is giving him that, having a system that allows him – and anyone who refuses a test or tests positive for a banned substance – to return once the ban is served. To give him a wildcard, in his first tournament back, is surely not something the ITF, which administers the anti-doping programme, would approve of.

The ATP, whose structure lends itself to this kind of problem with its players-tournaments split, has no real say in who a tournament offers its wildcards to. It’s not Troicki’s fault that he has been offered one, nor a surprise that he should accept it. Tennis is his livelihood and he’s going to take every opportunity he’s given.

But he has to earn back the respect of his peers, most of whom know he should have taken the test. Novak Djokovic backed Troicki very publicly, showing admirable loyalty as a friend. But as Roger Federer and Andy Murray, among others, pointed out, the rule is there for a reason and is pretty simple. Troicki, for whatever reason, didn’t take the test and even if – and again, we can’t know this – there was some form of confusion over the whole matter or that something else caused him to refuse, the bottom line is that he should have known the rule and not risked even the possibility of a ban by not taking the test.

As for giving wildcards, maybe the Tours should put in a rule banning individual events from offering a wildcard to players returning from bans. It just sends out an ugly message.

  • Anonymous

    I am not a Troicki fan and felt his doping suspension was appropriate but I disagree with this column. Now that his sentence has been served, he is entitled to equal treatment on the tour. If a tournament thinks Troicki will help attendance or raise the level of play, he’s entitled to the same wild card as everyone else. A 12 month ban should not be a two year sentence in disguise.

  • jane

    Serena Williams did the same thing and she was “excused” because unlike Troicki she is not expendable. Tennis is very dirty and corrupt right now, but the media are too scared to talk about it, apart from the occasion article like this.

  • neutralmilkhotel

    Troicki’s a scapegoat for the real doping going on at the top of the game. Serena also refused a test, but I’ve never seen Cambers whine on about that or even mention it. He has selective criticisms based on which players he does and doesn’t like.

    • http://www.thetennisspace.com mark

      Actually – I have written about it. But that’s very tricky to write about because no one will actually confirm that it counted as a missed test. So we can’t write it.

  • Anonymous

    When was Serena excused from taking a test? Troicki should not have been given a wild card. In the same way that Odesnik was villified and hung out to dry for his doping ban, Troicki should also be made to pay by playing Futures, Challengers or whatever needs to be done. Everyone does deserve a second chance, but can you imagine if someone were convicted of bank fraud being allowed back into the banking sector before they had proven themselves?

    • Carlos


      The same final result (no sample given) just with a little more theatricality.

    • Anonymous

      The thing is, Troicki wasn’t convicted of doping. He was found to have had “no significant fault” in violating an anti-doping *rule*. It’s not the same issue, so I don’t think Odesnik is a good comparison. Troicki has already paid; some seem to want him to pay still more. He’s doing so now, by the way, playing in the qualifying rounds of a Challenger tournament–will many notice? I’ll have much more to say on this topic later this weekend. (Hi, Karen–if you’re the Karen W. FedFan I “know”!)

  • Helios

    Indeed, as most comments – is this intelligible writing? Author wants punishment (be it right or wrong) to be extended? It defies both logic and law. Then it is not prescribed punishment but much larger punishment. As in: prisoner is out of jail but he cannot go freely or meet other people, he is free to go to remote desolate island. In this case: he can play and earn but others are forbidden to allow him to play and earn.
    Tournament benefits from having much better player than any “young talent” as Troicki 1st round victory showed. So both sides did legitimate professional thing.
    Surely author is missing some McCarthyism type of engagement and feels that his talent in stopping “ugly messages” is wasted.

  • viktor

    What about Cilic? He tested POSITIVE on the doping test but was allowed back in 6 months. Troicki did give a negative urine sample but was banned double the time for refusing blood test. I guess the higher you are ranked the milder the punishment