Doping: Plebgate and Troicki

Just listening to the Pleb Gate row and thought it’s very similar to the Troicki affair. It’s all based on hearsay. You can’t police that. The point is more that the judicial system itself isn’t perfect. So it’s unfair to expect perfection from that of sports.

I feel it’s unprofessional to rely on the person administering the test knowing the full set of rules. Troicki should have known them himself or should have checked them up and arranged any retest according to given protocols.

By leaving it as an informal verbal exchange he left himself open to the charges that followed. It just isn’t good enough. He then had to rely on the support of the world number one Novak Djokovic. Something that has lowered my respect for Novak. As a world numebr one he sets the tone for the tour. He is supporting the idea that the player can be unprofessional and get away with it. That is a dangerous path to take. I can only think of many things Troicki could have done more to support his case like getting formal confirmation of his right to move the test. Without this he should have submitted to the test.

The same thing happened in plebgate with the prime minister (the UKs leading politician) having to get involved. While the situations are quite different. The point is about how hard it is to successfully enforce rules when hearsay is the basis of evidence and so no clear facts can be determined. This is a common problem and so all professionals should be aware of the potential problems and their solution.

I don’t know much about Troicki on or off court so I wanted to understand a little more about how he handles his profession. So I had a little look and found examples like Troickis outburst in Rome. This is, for me, another example of Viktors unprofessional conduct. The point is not so much the outburst but how he handles it. This year we saw David Ferrer, Djokovic, Ferrer and many others get upset. We all do. How they handle the situation is telling though. Do they pick a fight or do they find a more professional solution.

We can all sympathise with the frustration you feel when a call goes against you when you think it was clearly in. Happens to me all the time. Always when I serve an ace too :-). It feels like my opponent cannot believe what he saw so the ball must be out. What is unprofessional is how Viktor handles the situation. He didn’t let the umpire explain his decision and he didn’t make any case that he was being treated differently. To be fair the umpire Cedric Mourier could have offered an explanation. Instead he just implied that is the decision, live with it. That’s always a frustrating response but I think he meant lets discuss this after the match. For now we have paying customers and the show must go on so we need to finish the match first.

In my view as long as the umpire applies his judgement equally there is no more he can do. My interpretation of Troickis actions are diva like and close to bullying. I don’t think that’s what he meant but he is making the umpire look silly and getting the crowd behind himself.

I include this video because we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. What I see is a scene that plays out on courts all over the world, the difference is that Viktor is a professional. I understand that on a clay court the mark you see does not reflect the exact hit point of the ball. It’s a tiny version of a meteor crater. The speeds are so much less that it’s not so obvious but a small meteor a few foot across can make a huge hole 20-30 feet across because it generates so much wind and force when it lands. On a clay court the ball generates enough wind to spread the clay even before it bounces. Thus the mark you see is not the true reflection of where the ball bounced.

I have a memory of a slow motion video that showed this but I can’t find it. I also can’t find the exact rules on how to interpret marks. I can only find lots of hearsay like why hawkeye isn’t used at Roland Garros. However if in fact the mark is simply considered good enough and thus Cedric was in fact incorrect Troicki still broke the rules by crossing over to the opponents side of the court. This is considered intimidation and bad sportsmanship. Troicki and all players should know this. So Viktor is still in the wrong. He’s been playing this sport for years so there’s no real excuse for not knowing this.

What I’m trying to understand is first whether Viktor is hard done by. I don’t think so. This happens to everyone but not everyone acts like he does. Maybe he simply doesn’t understand, or hasn’t read the rules. There are a lot of them but he is a professional and, again other athletes manage to read and understand them.

Finally I have to wonder whether he knowingly violate the rules. This is a much trickier question. He may disagree with the rules and choose which to obey but that isn’t much different than outright walking all over them. If we are to ignore the rules then we could suddenly change the net height or the size of the court. If we did that we would stop playing a recognised game of tennis so, whether you agree with the rules or not you have to be aware of them and abide by them. Anything else really isn’t Tennis. It’s just a game you’ve made up. Not something everyone has agreed on.

In the end what I see in this video certainly paints a picture of an unprofessional player who doesn’t understand the rules. Therefore I see it as his problem. He has a right to protest but not to break the rules. If this is how he acts in public then I expect worse in the relative privacy of a drugs test.

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