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.