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Djokovic and Troicki slam tennis' 'ridiculous' anti-doping procedures

updated 1:22 PM EST, Wed November 6, 2013
  • Novak Djokovic criticizes anti-doping procedures in tennis
  • Banned for missing a drugs test, Viktor Troicki laments 'toughest time of career'
  • World No. 2 Djokovic says he has lost all trust in tennis' anti-doping measures
  • The Serb says ATP needs to offer more support to players accused of doping offenses

(CNN) -- Serbian tennis player Viktor Troicki has told CNN in an exclusive interview that he has been "treated like a criminal" following the year-long ban he received after missing a drugs test in April.

The 27-year-old was speaking less than 24 hours after compatriot and world No. 2 Novak Djokovic branded anti-doping procedures in tennis as "ridiculous" following the treatment of his close friend.

"I have been treated like a criminal" Troicki said on Wednesday, explaining how he was barred from attending Serbia's Davis Cup clash against Canada two months ago because of his troubles.

"I wasn't even allowed in the arena. They said it was not possible for me to attend -- even to be a spectator who bought a ticket and attended the match.

"A lot of the players have been behind me, and gave me their support, so that means a lot to me in the toughest time of my career."

Troicki, a former top-20 player, was initially handed an 18-month ban for missing a drugs test at the Monte Carlo Masters, which was reduced to 12 months on Tuesday after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

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The Serb maintains he was given permission to miss the test due to illness and the fact he has a phobia of needles.

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"It's very bad news that we got for him, and for me, for all of us who are close to him," said Djokovic, who arrived at the press conference with written notes on the subject.

"But I think it's just not bad news for him, it proves again that this system does not work."

Djokovic used his post-match press conference following a three-set victory over Roger Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals to launch an attack on the sport's various governing bodies as he vigorously defended Troicki.

The six-time grand slam champion went on to claim that the consequences of not completing the test were not made plain to Troicki at the time.

"First of all, he's not positive on any banned substance," continued Djokovic. "I'm not saying that it's completely not his fault.

"She (the Doping Control Officer) did not clearly present him with all the severe consequences that he will have if he avoids that. She told him that he needs to write a report and that he will be just fine.

"And because of her negligence and because of her unprofessionalism, he is now off the tour for one year. And now it makes me nervous as a player to do any kind of test."

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In his interview with CNN World Sport, Troicki confessed to being both surprised and moved by Djokovic's comments.

For me, this is total injustice. It's just incredible.
Novak Djokovic

"I didn't actually know he was going to say that - and the way he said it really meant the world to me," he said from Belgrade.

"To have the support of a good friend of mine was just amazing at this moment, and I thank him so much. He's really my true friend and I saw that in this moment.

"Not only him but other players too -- (Jelena) Jankovic, (Janko) Tipsarevic and Rafa (Nadal) have also said nice things."

Loss of Trust

As a result of Troicki's ban, which is a double blow because he will have to compete in lesser tournaments upon his return given his loss of ranking points, Djokovic said he has lost all faith in the ability of anti-doping authorities to conduct accurate and reliable tests.

"I don't have trust in them anymore," said the 26-year-old. "I don't have trust in what's going on.

"I don't know if tomorrow the (anti-doping) representative, because of the unprofessionalism, because of their negligence, because of their inability to explain the rules in a proper way, I don't know if they're going to misplace the test that I have or anything worse than that.

"For me, the whole procedure of the court case is totally against the player and player's rights.

"Now in Viktor's case, he's going to be sanctioned until July next year, and this lady, the DCO, she's going to come back tomorrow for the job. Nobody is going to answer for that. Only him. Why?

"For me, this is total injustice. It's just incredible."

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He went on to criticize the ATP, the body which governs the elite men's tour, for not offering greater support to Troicki or Marin Cilic, who this year served a four-month ban -- reduced from nine months on appeal to CAS -- after testing positive for a banned substance which he claims to have taken unknowingly.

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"After this kind of announcement and after this particular situation, the only one who is suffering here is the player," continued Djokovic.

"The ATP, which is supposed to be an association of players of tennis professionals, which is supposed to be the governing body, the association that stands behind the players, is not going to answer on this announcement, is not going to do anything for Viktor.

"So Viktor is there by himself. Tomorrow it can be anybody else. Cilic was there in this situation.

"I'm emotionally connected to Viktor but, looking at the whole scenario, it doesn't give me any trust in that, in them, in the whole procedure, in the whole rules, in anything.

"That's it. That's my statement. Sorry, but that's what I had to do. Not just because of him, but because of the sake of the players and because of the sake of the sport. It's just ridiculous."

Troicki's manager Corrado Tschabuschnig was grateful that the CAS had reduced his client's ban, but he was "very disappointed" that the sanction was still 12 months.

"It's another big setback, we were all expecting six months, but we will try to be as positive as we can," Tschabuschnig told CNN.

"We all believed that Viktor was going to get back into the top 20 in the world and his coach Jack Reader was doing a great job. Now we have to rethink everything."

On the support Troicki has received from Djokovic, Tschabuschnig added: "Novak trusts Viktor."

Policing tennis

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepted CAS' decision to reduce Troicki's ban, but reacted strongly to criticism of anti-doping officials.

"The ITF, as the administrator of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program on behalf of the Grand Slam tournaments, ATP and WTA, is committed with our partners to protect the integrity of the game of tennis," read an ITF statement issued prior to Djokovic's outburst.

"We respect the ruling of the CAS ... what is harder to accept is criticism of doping control officers who perform a difficult role.

"Finally, separate from this decision, we should all remember that exactly one year ago anti-doping programs around the world were under scrutiny.

"This reinforced the need to be vigilant and apply the rules strictly, something that we and our partners in the tennis anti-doping program strive to do to keep our sport clean."

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