Non Americans may not be familiar with one Ryan Braun. Braun, who tested positive for PED's (Performance Enhancing Drugs) in 2011. He vigorously protested his innocence to the authorities and said that his sample had been contaminated because the drug tester kept it over night in his home. The drug tester ended up losing his job and Braun continued to pitch for his team and end up with a contract running into the next decade.
Fast forward to 2013. The head of the Major League Baseball union, seriously ill himself, released a statement in early July which basically said that drug cheats would not get the automatic union protection they'd become accustomed to and that if confronted with proof of their cheating it would be best for them to negotiate a deal. The reason for the statement became clear when Braun was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season and would lose $3 million. Of course that's like you or I being fined $30 but that's not the point. Braun is considered a small fish though and it remains to see if the big one ends up being permanently banned.
But what happens to Alex Rodriguez isn't the subject of this post. It's Braun's blatant lie about the drug tester that's relevant to tennis right now.
Victor Troicki, as many know by now, was tested in Monte Carlo in April of this year. Ho-hum except that they wanted a blood sample in addition to the urine sample. In a statement Troicki says he refused the blood sample because he wasn't feeling well and offered to give the sample the next day. He claims the drug tester said okay. Reports are he was stunned to be told his suspension would be eighteen months and said that the drug tester deceived him into believing it was okay not to give the sample. Outraged, he's taking his case to the CAS in hopes of getting the suspension reversed. It went into effect July 15 which means if upheld, Troicki wouldn't be back on a court until January 2015.
Some quotes are needed here.
Troicki said the following:
"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," Troicki said, in a question and answer session released to USA TODAY Sports by Troicki's agent. "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."
Troicki continued: "I had a blood test from the same doping control officer the next morning. ... Both negative, totally clean."
Quoting the same source cited above the ITF said this:
The tribunal, however, ruled that the officer had told Troicki "she could not advise him as to whether his reason for not providing a blood sample was valid, and that no such assurances were given by her."
The tribunal said Troicki's "actions constituted a failure and a refusal to provide a blood sample, and that his explanation for not doing so did not constitute compelling justification."
More important for the player
...the ITF said Troicki's results at the Monte Carlo Masters would be erased and he would forfeit both ATP ranking points and prize money from the tournament.
Troicki is 27.
I'm sorry if I'm skeptical. I didn't believe Richard Gasquet's "I kissed a girl" cocaine defense and I don't believe Troicki. Why would a drug tester put her job on the line by letting him skate? Why has Troicki, in trying to defend himself, dragged his country's and ATP top ranked player into this? Why is he saying his coach will back his version of events? Will his Federation get behind him like the FFT did with Gasquet? That remains to be seen.
If everyday people know how to pass a drug test despite their personal behavior why wouldn't a professional athlete? Faced with a blood test that could find something asking for an over night reprieve leaves the door wide open for something to get out of his system. It happens all the time.
Of course my disbelief doesn't translate into proof that Troicki did anything wrong. He could be perfectly innocent. But after Ryan Braun's behavior I can't help but be suspicious when someone throws the drug tester under the bus.
Again this is my belief. The appeal process will be followed by Troicki and his team and only when that is finished will tennis fans know if Troicki will serve the full 18 month suspension.
The entire statement released by the ITF is quoted below, also from the above source.
"The International Tennis Federation announced today that Viktor Troicki has been found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.3 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (refusing or failing without compelling justification to submit to sample collection).
"Mr Troicki, a 27-year-old player from Serbia, was notified on 15 April 2013 that he had been selected to provide a urine sample and a blood sample in association with his participation at the Rolex Monte Carlo Masters event.
"Mr Troicki provided a urine sample, but did not provide a blood sample. He asserted to an independent tribunal that he was assured by the Doping Control Officer (DCO) that it would be acceptable not to provide a sample on account of him feeling unwell that day. However, the tribunal concluded that the DCO told Mr Troicki that she could not advise him as to whether his reason for not providing a blood sample was valid, and that no such assurances were given by her.
"Accordingly, the tribunal determined that Mr Troicki's actions constituted a failure and a refusal to provide a blood sample, and that his explanation for not doing so did not constitute compelling justification under Article 2.3. However, the tribunal accepted that the stress that Mr Troicki was under at the time entitled him to mitigation under Article 10.5.2.
"Mr Troicki's commission of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.3 of the Programme was, therefore, confirmed, and the tribunal determined that he is suspended from participation for a period of 18 months, and so ending at midnight on 24 January 2015. It was also determined that Mr Troicki's results at the 2013 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters event should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that he won at that event.
The picture is via www1.skysports.com