Serbian tennis player Victor Troicki will appeal to sport’s highest court to fight his 18-month suspension for failing to provide a blood test.
Troicki said Friday he will "put my trust" in the Court of Arbitration for Sport where he can challenge his ban imposed by the International Tennis Federation.
"This was a clear mistake from the on-site doping control officer who was also a doctor, and the person in charge to decide," Troicki said in a statement published on his personal website.
"I am destroyed and exhausted. This is a real nightmare," wrote the 53rd-ranked Troicki, whose suspension through Jan. 24, 2015, requires missing six Grand Slam events.
The 2010 Davis Cup winner’s version of events at the Monte Carlo Masters in April conflicts with the findings of an ITF tribunal.
Troicki said he gave a urine sample after a quick loss to Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, but then declined to give blood because he felt ill and feared needles. Anti-doping rules require athletes selected for testing to comply with official requests.
"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.
The ITF suspended Troicki on Thursday after its tribunal believed evidence given by the "conscientious and cautious" doctor, Elena Gorodilova, who it said had 15 years’ experience in anti-doping work.
Gorodilova, the tribunal said in its ruling, "was clear in her evidence to us: her response was that this was not a matter upon which she could advise the player."
Still, Troicki insisted that the doping control officer had been "very helpful and understanding" in suggesting how to compose the letter.
"In my opinion, once she found out that she didn’t follow the procedures, she turned her back on me," Troicki wrote.
Troicki noted that, the following morning, he gave a blood sample to Gorodilova and it was "negative, totally clean" like the initial urine test.
The tribunal said it found the 27-year-old Troicki a "confident and determined man" with "genuine belief" in the truth of what he was saying.
"However, that does not mean that this account was in fact accurate," the ruling said. "Mr. Troicki came across to us as someone prone to exaggeration in order to make his point."
The ITF’s tribunal also criticized Troicki’s coach, Jack Reader, who was present for some of the doping control station meeting in Monte Carlo.
"We were unimpressed by him as a witness," the ruling said of Reader, a "professional tennis coach since at least 1985" who seemed unaware of detailed anti-doping rules.
The three-man tribunal did show some leniency toward Troicki in not applying the standard two-year ban for a first anti-doping violation. Because the player had been stressed by illness on the day and his long-standing needle phobia, his suspension was reduced by six months.
Troicki can ask CAS to freeze the 18-month ban — potentially clearing him for the U.S. Open next month — while his case is processed.
He would need to "establish the existence of irreparable harm in case the suspension is not temporary lifted," the court said in a statement to The Associated Press.