By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Serbia's Viktor Troicki said his dream of being a "top player" had been taken away after his ban for violating the ITF's doping regulations was reduced to 12 months from 18 on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old former world No.12 was suspended by the ITF in July for failing to provide a blood sample at the Monte Carlo Masters in April but appealed to have the decision reversed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Troicki, who denied any wrongdoing, said he had been told at the time by a doping official that he had been excused from providing a blood sample as he was feeling unwell.
While the CAS tribunal found that Troicki's fault was "not significant" it only reduced the ban by six months, meaning he will not be able to compete again on the ATP Tour until July 15, ruling him out of three grand slam tournaments.
"I hoped that the most difficult period of my career and of my life would be over, and I really trusted the judges I met in Lausanne," Troicki said in a statement.
"I had the feeling that they were really looking for the truth and that they had found it during the hearing.
"Now this decision puts an end to my dreams of being a top player, of reaching the ATP finals and fighting against the best in the world.
"I worked my entire life for it, and it has been taken away from me in one afternoon by a doctor I didn't know."
Troicki, a member of the Serbia team which won the Davis Cup in 2010, was ranked 53rd when the ITF announced his ban.
He received strong support from his Serbia team mates including Novak Djokovic and had hoped that the ban might be overturned so that he could compete in next week's Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic in Belgrade.
"I am shocked with the verdict," Serbia's Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic said on the B92 website (www.b92.net).
"I am shocked because it amounts to destroying the career of a young athlete, an exceptional tennis player and a good lad.
"I think he deserved nothing of the sort, especially given the fact that some of his peers have got away with more serious offences.
"Some of them had their bans drastically reduced and (Croatian Marin) Cilic is the latest example, while Viktor didn't even take illegal substances."
Outlining its decision in a statement CAS accepted that there had been confusion between the doping control officer (DOC) and Troicki.
"The CAS panel considered that the DCO should have informed the player in clearer terms of the risks caused by his refusal to undergo a blood test, but that, despite the misunderstanding between the player and the DCO, there was no suggestion that Mr Troicki intended to evade the detection of a banned substance in his system."
Troicki now faces the prospect of a long drop down the rankings and a huge drop in income.
"Regarding the CAS I can only say that they are humans, and they probably didn't have the courage to go against the ITF releasing me and putting ITF in a bad situation," he said.
"I am sure they feel bad about it, but in the end they will all go back to their jobs tomorrow, including Doctor Gorodilova, and I won't. This is what remains from this case."
"I have no idea about what to do now or where to go. I hope somehow I will be able to fight back."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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- Viktor Troicki