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Agassi confession lengthens shadow of doubt

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Jonathan Overend | 14:03 UK time, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

"It was full of lies, interwoven with the truth," Andre Agassi reveals.

He is talking about the gushing letter he claims he wrote to the ATP in 1997 to explain his positive drugs test.

This is the statement which may tarnish the American's reputation more than the doping offence itself. Lies and cover-up, on a sad day for tennis.

Agassi claims he tested positive for crystal meth after taking the drug recreationally in 1997, the year of his dramatic slump in form and slide down the rankings.

He amazingly writes about it in his new autobigraphy, being serialised in The Times this week, and one can only imagine he was trying to illustrate the deep depression he was feeling at the time and highlight the remarkable resurgence which followed this all-time low.

It appears he faced an independent tribunal but was found not guilty after claiming that a drink was spiked. This was never made public because, as the ATP confirmed in a statement today, the authorities always protect the innocence of those who are acquitted.agassi595getty.jpg

Agassi bowed out of the 1997 US Open after a fourth-round defeat by Australia's Pat Rafter

The claim of dishonesty, coupled with the fact he was never banned, basically suggests the ATP took his defence at face value and brushed his case under the carpet. The ATP would strongly reject this, arguing it was an independent tribunal which made the decision and that no executive had the authority to decide the matter.

But unfortunately, after this high-profile revelation, more suspicion hangs over tennis than ever before.

How many more cases like this have there been? How much more deception? How many more, like Agassi, simply bluffed their way out and got away with it?

The problem is that in 1997, and until relatively recently, the tennis governing bodies looked after themselves and their own drug testing.

Take the ATP, the men's tour, which is half-owned by the players and half-owned by the tournaments.

A positive drugs test would go to an appeal tribunal - as we are led to believe happened in Agassi's case - and a verdict delivered. Only the guilty verdicts would be made public to protect the anonymity of the innocent.

There is no suggestion of any routine cover-up but there was a clear conflict of interest under the old system. Agassi was basically up in court facing the very people who treasured him: his tour, his promoter.

No wonder a major change was made in 2006 when the ATP, followed by the WTA the following year, handed the testing programme over to the relative independence of the International Tennis Federation.

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Agassi and wife Steffi Graf speaking to Inside Sport in May 2009

The current programme is rigorous, scientific and detailed with players tested frequently in and out of competition.

But the testing is not the issue, it's what happens after a positive test has been found.

The murky Richard Gasquet case haunted tennis during the summer. After a positive cocaine test, a tribunal basically believed the Frenchman's explanation that the banned substance came from a lingering kiss with a Miami waitress.

He received a reduced two-month ban which effectively cleared him to return to action straight away.

Will we learn in Gasquet's autobiography in 10 years' time that this was all an elaborate wheeze?

And what about the true stories behind "The Nandrolone Seven".

Back in 2003, seven players tested positive for the banned steroid in a complex case first revealed by BBC Sport. They were never named because, like Agassi, they were all acquitted.

The case was never fully solved and few people believed the official explanation (contaminated mineral supplements) but because nothing else could be proved legally, the players had to be found not guilty because, cleverly, the lawyers had turned the case on the ATP because they ran the supplements.

But who were these players? At least one of them was believed to be a household name. Will his full story come out one day?

The problem for tennis is that people look in from the outside and come to the not unreasonable conclusion that there is a lot more under the carpet than comes out in public.

Certainly those who dealt with Agassi's potentially explosive case in 1997 have sat on a dark secret all this time. They let him off in good faith - believing his story - but they were hoodwinked by a superstar.

Of course much of the discussion will, no doubt, focus on whether crystal meth can be performance enhancing. But that's not really the point.

The key here is the deception and the dangerous ramifications for a sport like tennis which wants desperately to defend its stars but finds itself deeply hurt by the startling revelations of one of its great champions.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This is a man who was depressed during the period in question. He made a mistake (like most of us have). Get on with life. What are the ramification for tennis? Well, only time will tell.

  • Comment number 2.

    Jonathan has identified the real issue here. How many other positive tests have been swept under the carpet and just how serious has tennis been about ensuring it is clean? As someone who loves road cycling, a sport where there is a huge drug problem despite a much more rigorous testing system, I think I have learned to recognise the signs of doping. And I strongly believe tennis (both men's and women's) has a big problem. Many top players now have the most unnatural physiques and supernatural stamina. Players regulary seme to change shape (women no less than men) in the off-season, putting on a quantity of muscle that any one who has done body building seriously knows is highly suspicious. I notice that the retiring Santoro, without naming names, says it is painfully obvious in the locker room what is going on. And none of this would be possible without the naivety of the authorities. But the Agassi revelations makes me suspect that it is not naivety but collusion.

    One piece of good news: Federer recently called for all samples to be stored for eight years and has been fully supportive of random out-of-competition testing, showing pro-active good example. The bad news is that his views have been attacked by certain players who are either in denial about the current situation or possibly have something to hide.

  • Comment number 3.

    A very clear distinction should be drawn in these cases between athletes testing positive for recreational drugs and those who have taken performance-enhancing drugs. Agassi was a fool to take crystal meth, but Dwain Chambers was a cheat. There is a fundamental difference, which the media, keen to hype their stories, tend to downplay and blur.

  • Comment number 4.

    I wouldn't go as far as to say how clever the Nandrolone lawyers were, given they defended their clients using a fundamental principle of justice (equitable estoppel), which happened to be the same argument Greg Rusedski used to clear his name. And quite honestly, if it is in fact the case that ATP trainers were handing out the contaminated supplements, then it is absolutely correct for the seven to have been acquitted.

    What the Agassi situation highlights, quite different from the Nandrolone case, is what can happen when you don't operate a strict liability regime. It's not to say that a strict liability regime is perfect, but you know what sort of job it is going to do.

    In terms of Agassi's reputation, I don't think the fact he took drugs and lied back in 1997 to the ATP will hurt him one bit - the Agassi the whole world grew to love this century, at the end of his career, was unrecognisable compared to the wild-child Agassi who first burst onto the scene. This will be seen as part of his disreputable past, from which he has long since moved on.

    Also other players, since retiring, have admitted to taking drugs - Mats Wilander is still active in the sport, and Petr Korda is coaching Radek Stepanek - and tennis has never been more popular. So if there's an argument that tennis does have deep-rooted problems in terms of its drugs policy, its image, and its appeal, I don't really see it, and I don't think this Agassi revelation will make any difference.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Of course much of the discussion will, no doubt, focus on whether crystal meth can be performance enhancing. But that's not really the point."

    I'm afraid it IS the point, Jonathan. Agassi lied and I agree that he should not have but people lie in everyday jobs as well.

    Have we just found out he "accidentally(or deliberately)" took steriods or other performance enhancing drugs, to win various tournaments? No.

    We've just found out this person is NORMAL. Yes he is a superstar but everyone makes mistakes.

    "How many more cases like this have there been? How much more deception? How many more, like Agassi, simply bluffed their way out and got away with it?"

    Deception, really? I agree it's deception if he used it to his advantage but I do not think he did. I'm not interested in anyone else if they've had non performancing enhancing drugs ONE time. Why does it matter? Should we not be focusing on those (e.g. Chambers) that have used drugs to achieve greatness?

  • Comment number 6.

    This does raise a lot of questions and unfortunately does show off tennis in a negative light. Whilst on the one hand agassi has been brave in revealing it now as it will certainly damage his legacy and puts his position in history into doubt. Whilst his talent and achievements were outstanding he will forever be tarnished, and rightly so as a liar and a drugs cheat.
    His revalation has obviously come far too late for the proper punishment to be dished out and it's also disappointing that it's only come to light now to help him sell copies of his book and not at the end of his career. His drug taking does help to explain why he fell down the rankings so dramatically and for a period wasted his talent before sorting himself out to win further slams. Unfortunately people will now question how he did this and was it legal?

    At least now that tennis has removed the self regulation then this may not happen again or at least not so easily. The case will certainly cause suspicion as to whether players are telling the truth when they come up with their excuses, gasguet for one may have been dealt with far more seriously as a result and the secrecy surrounding the nandrolone 7 pulls everyone down, unfairly in my opinion

  • Comment number 7.

    "Many top players have unnatural physiques and supernatural stamina. Players regulary seme to change shape, in the off season...putting on a quantity of muscle that any one who has done bodybuilding seriously knows is highly suspicious..."

    Sorry #2, I don't buy that.

    Funny that you had to relate players' physiques with doping, because in case you forgot, this is TENNIS, not PRO WRESTLING or BODYBUILDING. Why would a tennis player want to show off big biceps by taking steroids?!

    Moreover you're the first person I've heard being suspicious of players' physiques, coz I think it's not an indicator of whether someone takes PED or RD. What these drugs do is simply to increase performance of make someone 'high'.

    I believe physiques are natural, or due to hard work in the gym, which isn't a big secret.

  • Comment number 8.

    Please get over yourself Jonathan. As someone has already pointed out there's a world of difference between recreational drug use and performance enhancing drugs. Agassi made a decision he regretted and covered it up at the time. Now he comes clean and I don't see anything in the media coverage praising him for his decision to do so. How can you criticse him for lying back then but not praise him for the truth now when he has no need to tell it?

    You say that the nature of the drug he used isn't the point but that is nonsense. There should be a completely different procedure for dealing with recreational drug use to performance enhancing drugs. Or are you suggesting a player who drinks a beer after an exhibition match, in a muslim country where alcohol is illegal, should be banned as a drug cheat?

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    its not like crystal meth helps your performance at tennis

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh dear here we go with more hysterical 'what about the children' type of responses. There are very very few humans who haven't tried drugs. And please don't give me the sanctimonious but alcohol is legal argument when it has so clearly does more damage than half of the banned sunstances available today. If he had used to enhance his performance fair enough - he would deserve to have a tarnished reputation. But trying a substance to escape from his preoblems at that time that would have had nothing but a negative impact on his performance - please lay off him and the hyperbole! He played a sport - wasn't auditioning for sainthood. Tries some chemmies which had nothing to do with him winning or losing against anybody - regretted it - came clean - there is barely a story here.

  • Comment number 13.

    Why are there comments like number 7?! referring to Agassi as a drugs cheat. Drugs "cheats" are those who use performance enhancing drugs. If anything what Agassi took sounds like the opposite.
    What he took was an outlawed substance - that is why he would have been banned...not because he was in any way cheating.

  • Comment number 14.

    For goodness sake Mr Overend .. Agassi took a recreational drug which just happens to temporarily give a massive boost to one's self esteem at the lowest pint of his career. Please note .. A RECREATIONAL DRUG ... He was not cheating. Ok .. he lied to the hearing but to have been caught then may have finished him off forever .. everyone is human and is entitled to a mistake ..
    The fact that he has come clean about it now is a testimony to the man's enduring self honesty and ability to look himself in the face .. that was the strength of his character to enable him to come back.
    For you know to start a scaremongering campaign about untold numbers of other people getting away with such things is just plain stupid and sensationalising for the sake of a story .. This was clearly a one-off.
    I wish ALL journalists would stop lumping together recreational drug mistakes with the cheats who systematically take performance boosting products and do their best to avoid detection ..
    Agassi should be applauded for his candour .. He is showing to all the depths that can be experienced by even the best when they are going through bad times ... there is no more dignified and honourable person in American sport.
    Oh .. and the final point .. Yes crystal meth can be performance enhancing ... for about 1 hour .. so he would have to have had a supply in his Lucozade .. and by the end of the game he would have been looking like a certain deranged south american hand of god.

  • Comment number 15.

    Andre Agassi makes this revelation about Crystal-Meth just as he is releasing a new book. Do you think he might be trying to sell more books? And it appears that Mr. Overend fell for it hook-line-and sinker....on dry land. However, he's got plenty of company.

  • Comment number 16.

    To anybody who feels compelled to chastise this man in light of this news, I say remove the stick from in between your cheeks, you won't look so stupid when walking without the pickle in your bum. This is a man who won trophies, lied, took drugs, slid down the rankings, came back, won more trophies, started a school, gave back, to his community in Las Vegas, has a charity, and is now one of the game's greats. And today has shown that he is not afraid to be human. I applaud him for his fearless honesty, and the ATP should be thanking him. He didn't have to confess. He could've swept it under the rug for selfish purposes like countless others to save face, but who benefits from that? The ATP has a solid reason to revise testing now, and can work on making the sport cleaner. And that is after-all what the dying generation of "pickle-in-bum pensioners" claim to be after. A cleaner sport. Old people have notoriously short memories, and they conveniently forget in debates such as these that when they were children, sport in the UK was rife with bribing, liquor, horse-tranquilizers, and all sorts of stuff that doesn't shine too brightly on Britannia's "Glorious Sporting History". So, to any cynic who dares slander the name of Andre Agassi I say make sure the person you're speaking to has a puke bucket nearby because you're talking a load of merde (French for poo, I'm cultured) and up close the smell can be quite nauseating. Good day.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's a shame that the drugs story is going to be the main point emerging from Agassi's serialisation, because this morning's article in the Times is compelling reading for anyone wanting to understand how people start out in tennis and how they feel about the game.

    If you read the article, then to me it is far more shocking that Agassi "hated tennis", yet he continued practising and playing to become the champion he was. And if you want to know what it took to get him to the top, then it's a fabulous read to hear about the way he was treated by his father, how he learnt to deliberately hit shots off the wood of the racket and how he ended up, at the age of 9, potentially playing a game of tennis for which the entire family's wealth was at stake.

  • Comment number 18.

    This article is OTT, to say the least. He made a recreational error, he didn't cheat to win a tournament. If everybody who had used a recreational drug and on occasion lied about it were blasted, I reckon it would be a long list....

  • Comment number 19.

    There are a lot of people who must have lived in a monastery that this is a story even. Many world leaders and soon to be world leaders have indulged in illegal narcotics. Those in the media who still try and make out some shock horror story here are either 80, lived a quiet life, never worked in an office, never went out or are utterly oblivious to what is around them.

    Surely the fake hair now that is sad. He faked a mohawk!

    Frankly had this come out then it would have been a blip. Now it would be a longer ban but that is the laughability of the WADA code.

  • Comment number 20.

    His life, his choices. Made no difference to his talent or his success. A complete non-story.

  • Comment number 21.

    To be fair to Overend, I think his main point is that Agassi lied to the ATP after he tested positive, and this was enough to get him off (so we are told).

    What Overend should have made clearer is that players who test positive for performance enhancing drugs aren't able to get off on the basis of their own testimony. Guillermo Canas, Juan Ignacio Chela, Mariano Puerta, Karol Beck, there's four of the top of my head who have recently served drugs bans - and Canas eventually took his case (where he tested positive for a masking agent) all the way to the Court of Arbitration, to give you an idea of how severe the ATP can be.

  • Comment number 22.

    Im glad that most people that have replied, like me, find mr overand's article a bit laughable to be honest! He is not a drugs cheat, he didnt "get away with" anything, other than having his career completely ruined due to a desperate act in a moment of depression. It is, contrary to mr overand's surprising assertion, COMPLETELY different to an athlete who takes illegal drugs to enhance his performance.

    To suggest they are one and the same is madness. Take a chill pill mr overand, get off your extremely tall moral high horse.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I don't agree that the sport has been "deeply hurt", it just makes Agassi seem more human. As most people have posted above, taking a recreational drug is completely different than using steroids to improve one's on court performance. Agassi's denial (and the ATP's willingness to accept his story) seem not unreasonable in the face of what the consequences for the player and sport would have been had the real story come out at the time. Look at Martina Hingis - her at times promising comeback ended in an instance when she was accused of using a recreational drug a few years back. Agassi and co aren't employees of the ATP or WTA, and the tournaments absolutely depend on the presence of name stars to be commercially viable.

  • Comment number 25.

    Who cares? It wasn't a performance enhancing drug; if anything, it would hinder performance. Agassi was a brilliant player, a true gent on court, humble and, let's not forget, the winner of all four GS events. I just think he's daft owning up to it after all this time. He can't need the money.

  • Comment number 26.

    can't say I'm surprised;it's just the fact he feels the need to write about it putting the finger of suspicion on everone from that era and before so was "Super Steff" a user ?

  • Comment number 27.

    If the rules say you can not have a substance such a Crystal Meth in your body if you are a Pro Tennis player then you are breaking the rules. Whether it affects your performance positively or not is not the point. The fact the ATP apparently let him off without much of an investigation because he was a big named star is very interesting. It shows a precedence for the ATP to treat top (star) players differently to some low ranked no name, or someone coming to the end of their career. And therefore the end of their earning power for the ATP and sponsors.

    It would have been very bad financially for the ATP & Agassi's sponsors for his positive drugs test to have been made public. So they accepted his weak excuse. If they accept flimsy excuses for a positive recreational drugs test, why wouldn't they accept them for a positive PED test?

    Very often you hear tennis has the toughest testing system out there, when you actually look into testing you find that they hardly even bother - look at the stats and compare with cycling for instance. Very easy to say you are a clean sport when you don't actually conduct much testing.

  • Comment number 28.

    What a storm in teacup.

    Did taking crystal meth help Agassi's forehand? Mmmm. Don't think so. If anything his performance probably deteriorated.

    Also, it is no revelation that a number of top tennis players have experimented with recreational drugs. It is ugly and sad, but to say Agassi has tarnished his reputation by coming out with this is a joke.

  • Comment number 29.

    Andre Agassi always has been and always will be one of my favorite athletes, even if he used or abuse drugs at certain points in his life. Everyone makes mistakes.

  • Comment number 30.

    This is sensationalist rubbish, which is being given way too much attention and Agassi is loving every bit of the free publicity. Overend states that "This is the statement which may tarnish the American's reputation more than the doping offence itself. Lies and cover-up, on a sad day for tennis."

    Completely disagree with this. Maybe some of the old-timers will choke on their lunch today whilst reading this but frankly that would be a godsend, as these are the very people that are holding the development of the game back in this country.

    The guy took a recreational drug that would have more of a detrimental effect on his game in the long run (after prolonged use) than enhance it. I think that recreational drugs shouldn't be tested for in sport anyway as it is more of a moral issue and why should we assume these sportmen have higher moral standards than the rest of us.......oh yes, because thay are role models. Well, they don't ask to be and shouldn't be expected to be. They do there sport because they are good at it, get paid a lot and mostly enjoy it....not to be a role model. He lied just as everyone else would have/does in order to keep their 'job'. His lie didn't have an impact on anyone else other than to get him out of a whole. It wasn't as if by him lying that someone else was being adversely affected.

    I think most people will admire his honesty now in admitting what he has done.....but from the sounds of things, you would prefer that he kept quiet so that you could still be choking on the sand.

    He will still be regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time who was a wild child/man that grew in to being what appears a thoroughly decent man (much more so than most (including UK's) sportsmen/'role models').

  • Comment number 31.

    It is regretable that Andre makes drug taking sound glamorous because it is anthing but.
    For those of us who have volunteered for years to stop young people getting involved it very disheartening.
    It has long been my opinion that drug use in all sports is much more rampant than we think.
    He was lucky that he was strong enough to break away from drug taking but many less fortunate are not.
    I like Andre as he has done so much for underprivileged kids but in my opinion he should have left that episode out.

  • Comment number 32.

    So he did some clubbing when he was what

  • Comment number 33.

    I wish people would forget about whether Agassi is a "cheat" or not (in my opinion, this doesn't make him one), but Mr Overend's point that "But the testing is not the issue, it's what happens after a positive test has been found."

    This is what most other forums are buzzing about

  • Comment number 34.

    I have to disagree with nearly all of the other people on this article and side with Mr Jonathan Overend. It doesn't matter one jot if a drug is performance enhancing or not. It is the use of a banned substance which is what really matters.

    There are plenty of athletes over the years and sports who have deliberately or inadvertently taken a banned substance and it all comes down to the simple fact that they have broken the rules. Most of these will not even have been performance enhancing (Alan Baxter!), some are (Dwain Chambers), but everyone who is caught should be punished.

    Every sporting body has to be as stubborn and hard nosed as possible to really ram home the drug-free message. That's why i really applaud Federer and his campaigning. It really does concern me though that there might be a lot more cases like this.

  • Comment number 35.

    #34 you miss most people's points not so much that Overend is wrong about the consequences for ATP & testing but that his and others levels of sanctimony at Agassi are at fault. In fact had he been banned I doubt it would have hindered his career from then as he would have got a 3 month ban - so what. As we saw with Capriati and others in many walks of life cry a few crocodile tears and say you bitterly regret it and move on - see Dallaglio.

    As to your wider point about breaking rules that is surely trite and jobsworthy in other spheres of life? Applied to cycling and athletics yes probably best.

    Personally I find it ridiculous that people get 2 year bans now like Hingis for something that is not performance enhancing. Whether one believes I kissed waitress stories or not that story and Agassi's here is plausible. As the drugs involved are likely to harm not help I'd be happy to accept a lie and not ban people for a first offence.

    Testing for them just highlights in a macabre way the drugs themselves if anything?

  • Comment number 36.

    How many more copies will Andre's autobiography sell now that he has "made this revelation" I wonder? How many people now want to find out more details about the story? How are they going to find out?

    What happened to "no sex before marriage" Sarah Palin's popularity when we discovered her teenage daughter was pregnant?

    This is a world where competition for free airtime is intense. Most of the "news worthy" stories we see about celebrities are manufactured by their PR people.

    I would go so far to say that Andre will now be even more popular than he was before.

    All hero's need dragons to conquer. Meth is one of Andre's dragons. The fact that he could overcome such an addictive drug and go retrieve his career, marry Steffie, father two kids and set up Education Foundations will now make those achievements seem even greater.

  • Comment number 37.

    He's broken the rules... blah blah blah. bshooter are you a head master. The point that's being made by most here is that "the rules" go to far. His life away from tennis is his business and it matters a lot more than a "jot" that Meth a joint or a nice taxable drug like beer can not be viewed in the same context as steroids or any substance that would give him an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE during a competition. If it "concerns you though that there might be a lot more cases like this" , you should be because they are laughing at you and the stupid small minded rules that people like you cling to.

  • Comment number 38.

    Reading some of the comments here leads me to believe that there is not much in depth knowledge of just what a ruinious epedemic drugs are in todays life.
    Most of the crime and at least half the prison population are due to drugs.
    So many lives are ruined and the cost to society is not countable but it is astronomic.
    An addict is never cured but in many cases can be controlled, and families are destroyed through lost jobs and hospitalisation.
    Discussing drug use is no parlour game it a matter of the utmost seriousness and most certainly in the top handful of most serious dangers in the world today.

  • Comment number 39.

    Agassi had no need to reveal this demon from his past (unless someone is threatening to expose him). OK, he lied - and now he's setting the record straight. Seems fair enough to me.

    For me, the reaction to this story exemplifies the double standards that we have in sport. George Best (along with hundreds of others) spent decades literally weeing his talent up the wall on alcohol - but because it was a legal drug, that's perfectly OK and he can be a hero. Agassi snorted crystal meth a few times and suddenly he's a villain.

    Come off it guys!

    I am not a particular fan of Agassi (in fact, quite the reverse) but it seems to me that we need to get these things in perspective.

  • Comment number 40.

    Not sure if I am in shock or mild amusment! Why tell all now? Why ruin a reputation?

    I admire his honesty even if it is 12 years too late! The drugs taken didn't give him another Wimbledon title or make him world number 1!

    I hate the view that Steffi may have taken a drug! She hated taking a headache pill so please leave his wife out the equation. I would add that once she was with him, his fitness and appearance changed for the better! She definitely got him on the right track!

    Lets chalk this one up and leave Agassi's place in history unblemished!

    Agassi hasn't claimed it was great and is clearing showing remorse for these actions! Lets teach kids to leave chemicals alone.

  • Comment number 41.

    Who cares? The guy dabbled in a few recreational drugs. I would challenge anyone to play better tennis on Crystal Meth, if anything a class A drug addiction would hinder performance.

    I think Jonathan Overend's sensationalisation of the whole thing, with his gloomy assumptions of the ramifications for tennis, are ridiculous and kind of pathetic.

    An ex player admitted to trying a non-performance enhancing drug once. I dont think this warrants such foolish panic.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am glad most of the comments here are sensible and taking this news with an unsurprised approach. Yes he did illegal drugs, which effected NOONE ELSE. He did not cheat to try to be a winner.
    Are the laws of tennis about morality or the game itself?

  • Comment number 43.

    All this means is that it is even more of an achievement that Agassi was able to bounce back out of the gutter and get to the top of world tennis. A story of pure effort and determination.

  • Comment number 44.

    The whole story implies that Agassi's book must be a fairly dull read.

    Its the familiar strategy of "release a news provoking secret" about the subject of a book just before launch by the Publisher. (

    (Amazed that seasoned sports journalists fall head first every time for this,fair play to the Publishers though!)

    So- a sportsman of Agassi's calibre has to resort to a narcotic tale to sell his book?? A long turbulent career and this was the best they had? He could have layed into the ATP, former opponents and left this revelation in the closet (where it no doubt belongs)


    a)he has been terribly advised

    b)he is in dire financial straits needing to maximise book sales (seems unlikely)

    c) Released an extraordinary dull book

  • Comment number 45.

    The use of this recreational drug probably had the same effect on Agassi's tennis as Gatorade. I have, however, found that 4 pints of John Smiths turns me into Phil "The Power" Taylor down at my local, at least until the 5th pint takes hold. The guy supplying Andre was apparently called "Slim". The guy supplying me is Fat Bob the landlord. Please forward a mailing address for my sample and get a grip on reality!

  • Comment number 46.

    He should never have hung out with Whitney Houston

  • Comment number 47.

    I think I'm with the general consensus that I don't really give much of a hoot - Agassi was a pretty wild lad - I'd have been more surprised if something like this hadn't happened!

    In his defence, I don't think John O is being particularly 'sanctimonious' and probably doesn't deserve some of the criticism on here - I think some might have missed the main point (or it isn't expressed clearly enough). The issue is that it is yet another example that a governing body (be it global, national) simply cannot police itself - just look at all the US sports, which refuse to sign up to WADA codes.

    You can't really blame the authorities in a way - they simply made themselves hear what they wanted to hear and carried on. Had it been 'performance-enhancing' I suggest they would have been forced into a more robust response.

  • Comment number 48.

    Why did he have to come out and say it now?
    Im not condoming what he did but why spoil a glittering carrear by coming out with this spoiling news?

  • Comment number 49.

    Jonathan, why are you jumping on the lynch mob wagon ?

    You say, "Of course much of the discussion will, no doubt, focus on whether crystal meth can be performance enhancing. But that's not really the point.

    The key here is the deception"

    No, the key is whether it was performance enhancing or not. Did it make him win slams or other compos after his transgression. The answer is no, if he had taken it on a daily basis, he would not have played tennis any more. The deception is naughty, but not exactly life threatening to anyone is it.

    I can't see what harm the ATP will come to, they made a judgement and that's that, why Agassi should be slapped around because he had the decency, finally, to come clean, when we don't really know the whole facts of the case, may be down to his notoriety.

    He may rue the day he revealed his dabbling in crystals, but at least it cuts through the squeaky clean persona of the "golden" age of tennis. We now know superstars are human after all.

  • Comment number 50.

    This has nothing to do with condoms!

  • Comment number 51.

    this is a non story. Agassi admits taking a RECREATIONAL drug. It may be an illegal one but in terms of tennis,its no different to nicotine or alcohol. It certainly would not have helped his performances on the tennis court. The authorities that oversee sport, AND the journalists that report on it , should differentiate between the unfortunate but essentially irrelevant use of recreational substances which actually harm performance.... and the CHEATING that is the use of performance enhancing substances... including some legal ones like creatine. To do otherwise is to revert to the sensational tabloid journalism of the star and sun. IS that your standard MR Overend?

  • Comment number 52.

    Why is this such a big deal? As others have said, the point IS that the drugs weren't performance enhancing, so he didn't get any benefit from them beyond his own pleasure. Fair enough its regrettable that he lied about it, but everybody makes mistakes. I think he is to be praised for being truthful about it now. And I doubt he's saying it to sell more books... I can't imagine he needs the money.

    All the concern about what it means for the doping system seems pretty strange too, seeing as Jonathan says in the article that the system has completely changed since... is it worth getting our knickers in a twist about the fact that people may have taken drugs and lied in the past? What world and time are we living in?

    Agassi has been a hero to many, not just for his tennis but for his personality as well, and I don't think this will tarnish that one bit.

  • Comment number 53.

    #17 has picked up on the "revelation" (well, it was to me) that I think has rather more melancholy ramifications than the brief ice episode - that AA always "hated tennis". I regret now that I didn't get the "Times" today - I'd like to hear more about it. Did he mean it was the sport itself that had no attraction for him? Or was it the missed childhood, hype and hassle that went with it (as it might still have done if he'd been, say, a gifted baseball player or concert pianist)? Can anyone shed more light on this?

  • Comment number 54.

    The guy won a grand total of zero titles between August 1996 and February 1998. What he did was make a mistake, which was never intended to affect his performance, and had literally no impact on his career. He was wrong to do it, but to say it raises doubts about his legacy is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 55.

    Pathetic .. not Agassi .. you Mr Overend. It never ceases to amaze the almost fascist fervour that is exhibited by the anti-drug school of thought. So quick to condemn from a position of personal ignorance (or do they?).
    Crystal Meth! .. do me a favour, this is not performance enhancing. In what Universe can you gain an advantage (and thereby cheat) by playing at the top level of any sport when you are having a party in your head?

    Middle England .. grow up and smell the coffee.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    Taking crystal meth is extremely stupid, but it is forgiveable. Covering up the fact that you have done so, then admitting it in an autobiography for financial gain at a time when you are outside the penal arm of the ATP Tour, less so. It's hard to look at it as anything other than a cynical, money-grabbing exercise.

  • Comment number 58.

    He should be stripped of all his titles, and given a long, long jail-sentence.

  • Comment number 59.

    Oh Puhleassee, can you not sensationalize about someone who has been such a gentleman and a joy to watch. As most say here it was a recreational drug taken during a depressed state. IT MADE HIM WORSE NOT BETTER ! Pls BBC you are the front runner for accurate reporting. This is NOT Marion Jones systematically pumping in needles at appropriate times to enhance and avoid. Even a 10 year old can work out the difference. Surely you can?

  • Comment number 60.

    most of you obviously have never taken crystal meth before!
    crystal meth
    Ecstasy are all in the same kinda category!
    although the effects,and how long they last is different!
    i think most of you lot are being so forgiving because of who it is,but if it was a player you didn't like,you'd be slaughtering him or her right now!

  • Comment number 61.

    first italian football, then cycling, olympic sports on and off. All these have had some drug scandal come to light which has rocked their world.
    Lets see it this has the kind of knock on effect that happenend in cycling a few years back.

    I guess its usless to assume that 'rich' sports are fair and just. With so much money and the winning so high stakes a competitor needs an advantage whereever they can get one.

    I just hope that The premier league and La liga are next in the firing line.

  • Comment number 62.

    I think the jury has returned a verdict on your article, Jonathan.

    But Steffi Graf is now looking quite foxy in the photograph that came with it.

  • Comment number 63.

    Sadly it seems that a large percentage of people follow our current governments view on drugs, ie. regardless of expert scientific evidence, all drugs (except those we tax) are equally as evil as each other and anyone who takes anything illegal must be a 'bad' person and punished.

    Personally I applaud Mr. Agassi for telling the truth, even if it is for financial gain (selling more copies of his book) and feel totally disgusted at the people in charge of professional tennis (as I did at road cycling) for brushing problems under the carpet.

    Will anyone ever view a tennis match again, without having that nagging voice whispering 'cheat' in their ear.

  • Comment number 64.

    im not sure it will tarnish his legacy i mean when he first burst onto the scene he was the wild child of tennis, some of his outfits were more suited to Grunge music (admittedly music ain't a strong point of mine). this incident happened during that period so if anything this makes him seem normal strangely, it wasn't a performance enchancer so he achievements won't be tarnished as a result.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't know, I like Agassi, and I like honesty. That he admitted this is a show of character. That he lied in order to protect his whole life, basically, is understandable, and I dare anyone to honestly say they wouldn't do the same.

    In this instance, I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to say "OMG, drugs!!". Crystal Meth is not a performance enhancing drug - I'd be surprised you could play at all while on it to be honest. At the same time, Agassi was at his lowest raking every, and being written off by everyone. He was depressed. And now he is telling us about it, he did not have to. He could have taken his secret to his grace. I think he should be applauded for his honesty. As for the actual offense, I don't have an issue with players taking drugs so as long as it's not to cheat in games. If they take drugs recreationally, I say: Please, let these people live their lives.

    This is not like the bicycle riders to consistently cheat and lie and take drugs - this is a guy who made a mistake.

    Agassi - you rock!

  • Comment number 66.

    So what you are saying Jonathan is that all players, because of Agassi's actions a decade ago are guilty, even though proven otherwise? On the facts of Gasquet's tribunal and even in the face of medical evidence which supported his claim he may be guilty? Because Agassi said he did something untoward that he wrote about in a book, Gasquet might be spinning a few lies?

    Stop trying to make a headline out of this and trying to connect two seemingly distant events under one banner. You are practically a few words away from libel there. I think you better hope that Mr Gasquet can see a lighter side in those comments.

  • Comment number 67.

    I'm really angry with the BBC on how they have been reporting this, that Agassi's reputation and legacy is in question; that he's a tarnished character; that he's flawed etc. We're all flawed. What I actually see is a man showing the world the behind the scenes struggle that is ubiquitous to all humans; showing us his vulnerabilities, that he wasn't a machine and had it easy just playing tennis; which we forget when we watch these people not knowing who they are and what is going on inside their heads. For me Agassi will always be great and he has gone up in my estimation because of his honesty and because he decided to tell the truth when a very restrained, half-truth biographical account could have been written. Leave the man alone. If people can identify with him now, it will be through the fact his vulnerabilities are palpable and that he was fighting with pressure, fatigue, fear of failure, expectation, divorce, emotional pain which I think we all deal with from time to time. More understanding please and less condemnation.

  • Comment number 68.

    Drug testing in sport was brought in to stop cheating. Taking crystal meth is only cheating yourself. It's not going to enhance your performance on the court, neither is dope smoking, nor snifffing cocaine. If you want to protect any sport, it's about time society admitted that those with money are the ones who turn to drugs and keep it quiet. Those without end up as criminals. There are two distinct types of drug taking. One I believe is not our business, and if you try to legislate against recreational drugs, where is the legislation against alcohol? I am sure many a footballer and rugby player have hit the pitch well over the legal driving limit.
    As for Agassi being flawed? How many stones have you got to cast first?

  • Comment number 69.

    I have this view from a long time that all the sport gr8s from US are in drugs. Some have confessed, Some would confess & Some would never be known.

  • Comment number 70.

    As a huge fan of Agassi, this news has come as a disappointment. However, like many people above, I think that a degree of perspective is needed. A bloke who was suffering from depression took some meth. Its not good, but it isn't a massive deal. Some people drink when they feel down, in the States, crystal meth is pretty easy to come by so that was the poison that Agassi chose.

    That said, I do take issue with all the people above who say that Agassi wasn't cheating. He knew full well that if he had told the truth he would likely have received a significant ban. The drug itself may not have been performance enhancing, but Agassi's presence at subsequent tournaments was based on a lie and in my book that constitutes cheating.

    A part of me is almost glad he lied, because the way his career was going at the time, it is not hard to imagine that a ban would have led to retirement and we would have missed out on so many of his subsequent achievements. But there has to be a bottom line to these matters and unfortunately as Sports fans we're often not that great at seeing this. As much as we may have loved watching Agassi and as appealing a character as he may be, all fans should be stating that this is an ugly episode for tennis that should be roundly condemned.

    As I said at the top of this post, I've been a fan of Agassi for many years and have loved watching him play, but until we genuinely start showing our disgust at this behaviour then we remain complicit in accepting it or at the very least accepting that it will be swept under the carpet.

  • Comment number 71.

    Jonathan look to see the list of Victor Conte - BALCO clients for ideas and person's names from all the different sports.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    The majority of people leaving commens seem to have completely missed the point of the article - most likely they can no longer see it from their high-horse, or given the nature of their defence, low horse.

    It's not about Agassi per se, rather about the nature of drug-taking, recreational or not, in the sport and more dammingly, the attitude of the governing body toward the implementation of the rules. These blogs can be so frustrating.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm amazed that so many people are brushing this off with the 'it's only a recreational drug' line. The whole point about this article is that it highlights how easily the tennis drug system could be duped. In this sense, Agassi is irrelevant, and so is the type of drug he used, but the fact that the ATP simply cleared him to play on his own word is surely a pretty worrying revelation.

    What do (for me) tarnish Agassi out of this is not so much that he took a recreational drug – stupid, but, as has been said, many people make a mistake – but the fact that he didn't come clean and accept his error. If he had, it'd be easier to brush it off as 'just a mistake'. However, by lying to avoid punishment and save himself from personal shame, I personally find it tougher to see him as the role model that I have viewed him as in the past.

  • Comment number 75.

    Vcfsantos – fair points, well made.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    ThomThomTiger has it spot on. The main issue highlighted by this incident is nothing to do with Agassi per se. What he has shown is that in the 1990s it was possible, as a professional tennis player, to take a banned substance, fail a subsequent drugs test, lie to the subsequent tribunal, be acquitted and for nobody outside the sport to ever hear about it. And quite reasonably this makes people wonder how many other players did something similar, with either recreational or performance enhancing drugs.

    And because we don't know the answer to that question it casts doubt on the integrity of the sport, thereby damaging it. And that's what Overend was saying. It seems a bit rich to pour a load of vitriol all over a blog post that you haven't even read or understood properly.

  • Comment number 78.

    The point here is - when he was clean-living he won lots of titles, when he took drugs he won nothing so he cleaned up his act and returned to his former winning ways. Isn't that the perfect "don't do drugs" advert. If you do drugs it makes you a dishonest loser, but all is not lost, you can still turn it around and get back to winning ways if you have the willpower.

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    What shocks me is that the majority of the comments about this article are criticizing its content and saying there is not a problem in tennis. Denial is a very dangerous thing - look what happened to cycling because for years 'there really wasn't a problem' - denial of the issue will come back to haunt tennis. Either the sport needs to properly deal with the issue or it needs to accept that drug use will be widespread and just live with it. Other sports do not tolerate 'recreational' use of drugs and would never accept the word of the athlete over the test result - if you fail a test you are banned no matter what. If you don't do this you must accept that many athletes will use the loophole to escape bans. Don't bury your heads in the sand. If you do in a blink of an eye there may be no major sponsors who wish to be associated with the sport of tennis.

  • Comment number 81.

    I'm going to add my voice to the chorus of disaproval about this article. So Agassi took a non-performance enhancing drug and lied about it? So what? Either you have a strict penalty, in which case some innocent will definitely be punished: or you investigate claims, in which case some guilty will go unpunished (and some innocent will still be punished).

    Mr Overend seems to have the belief that all drug offences are equal, and that the innocent should be punished to ensure the guilty are....

  • Comment number 82.

    One point that I think is worth making is that it is very doubtful that the authorities would have taken his word as his bond if the tests had shown traces of a performance enhancing drug. To me it seems they were obviously satisfied he wasn't 'cheating' and decided to believe his reasons for the recreational drug intake shown on one test.
    I'm sure he was tested plenty of times since and had he tested positive for this again he would have been punished - it is also possible that the authorities had marked his cards and tested him more regularly than otehrs. It does seem like this was a one-off.
    Maybe the authorities made a mistake in not pursuing this, and Agassi obviously did with his lies, but its not a big issue in my eyes.

    In any case, a ban would not have affected him as it was likely 3 months or so and he didn't get back on track playing wise for another year or so!!

  • Comment number 83.

    Another point, although I don't follow cycling, to an outsider the majority of instances in cycling, like athletics, seems to be for performance enhancing drugs, not recreational ones. That is a different scenario as those users are clearly cheating.

  • Comment number 84.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It's not the taking of drugs I am upset about, its the fact he lied to protect his own image. Had he admitted the offence he would have had a 3-month ban and it would have been the end of it. But now he's tainted the whole of the tennis world because who now will believe the accidental consumption stories?

  • Comment number 85.

    #4 by eddie-george

    Just thought id let you know that your comment, paragragh 3 has been printed in the Times today, so obviously your opinion was valued.

  • Comment number 86.

    84. At 10:45am on 29 Oct 2009, chizzleface wrote:
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    It's not the taking of drugs I am upset about, its the fact he lied to protect his own image. Had he admitted the offence he would have had a 3-month ban and it would have been the end of it. But now he's tainted the whole of the tennis world because who now will believe the accidental consumption stories?

    I doubt he lied to protect his image. More like he lied to protect his career. He was in a bad place at the time and was in freefall in the rankings, so its not inconceivable he thought a ban may be the end of his career.

    When it comes down to it I think most others in that situation would do the fact most others where its due, Dwain Chambers is one of the few who actually admit they took a banned substance after getting caught....others just keep denying it.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.


    And I bet Dwain regrets it now. What motivation is there to admit the sin when admitting it gets you punished worse?

  • Comment number 89.

    The guy did it once; can you imagine how much stress he was under? If anything it would have inhibited him and he still went on to be one of the best players ever. It shows he’s human like the rest of us... and hes also man enough to admit it after all these years, good on him I say.

  • Comment number 90.

    What an overblown load of tosh. Agassi's confessed to one incidence of using recreational drugs 12 years ago, not to a lifetime of pumping performance-enhancing steroids into his system. I suspect the episode and the subsequent deception has left him feeling guilty ever since – hence the confession in his autobiography. If there were more to it, he'd probably have said so.
    I also think suggestions that tennis is rife with drug cheats – and soft on them – don't really stand up to scrutiny. The ATP probably took Agassi's word for it because an investigation would have been costly and unlikely to confirm anything, given that accidental ingestion is a plausible excuse. The same goes for the case of Richard Gasquet.
    I also expect the ATP would have been far tougher if those players – and others, like Martina Hingis – were testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. Crystal meth and cocaine are more likely to harm a player's game than elevate it.
    In fact, it's highly unlikely that many tennis players have even considered using performance-enhancing drugs – simply because there wouldn't be much point. Sprinters and other athletes can obviously gain a big advantage by taking drugs that make them run faster or stronger. That might help a bit in tennis, but it's essentially a game of skill and tactical awareness. Nadal won the Wimbledon 2008 final by hitting high-bouncing topspin shots to Federer's relatively weak one-handed backhand. Murray does well against aggressive players because his use of the sliced backhand prevents them from getting into their rhythm. How would steroids make a difference?
    I'd also say that anyone who suggests a player is using drugs on the basis of his or her physical appearance knows sweet FA about competitive sport. Lazy footballers aside, these people spend most of their waking lives doing an extreme amount of physical exercise. And the ones who make it to the top tend to have natural height and build advantages anyway.

  • Comment number 91.

    I agree with many points that have been made, the fact that signing up to professional sport athletes know the implications for drugs and the like. However crystal meth is not by any means a performance enhancing drug and wasn't taken like the blood dopers or HGR takers to aid his play. It isn't a drug that would have been taken lightly and therefore he must have had underlying issues that led him to this. But his rise back to the top shows strength and resiliance and with him admitting to it know when no damage can be done could give hope or inspiration to those trying to change things round for whatever reason.

  • Comment number 92.

    Andre played tennis like a squash player , a game of atrition baseline running his opponents from side to side rather than varying shote etc.
    He must have concentrated on stamina to achieve success with this style

    Its unlikely that any type of undectectable drug would assist in this only constant advanced training would do it.

    However this story has legs, and listening to a discussion on CNN a black comentator said using CM would assist stamina and seemed to indicate that the black athletes were being targeted while whites were overlooked.

    Lack of full information on exactly what the drug does or does not do is responsible for so much misunderstanding that the average reader is confused.

    What Agassi needs to do is to go on air and publicly indicate his disapproval of drug use not extole its virtues as the damage done is hard to reverse.

  • Comment number 93.


  • Comment number 94.

    I agree with other posts that taking recreational drugs as opposed to performance-enhancing drugs is a whole different ball game. Agassi is still a hero to me....

  • Comment number 95.



  • Comment number 96.

    Must say I am astonished by many of the comments on this blog. I understand that Agassi is a hero for many, but does that mean you're all blind to what's happened here?

    #62 thefrogstar - what an arrogant comment. The piece is well written and well argued by someone who covers the sport day in, day out.

    And others have said this is a storm in a teacup, fuss about nothing etc etc. Incredible.

    Agassi admits he took meth several times. It's a class A drug and is on the banned list. Do you all think athletes should be permitted to take class As?

    And then the big question, why did the ATP allow this to be brushed under the carpet? Because Agassi was a pin-up boy of the tour.

    Surely this calls into question an organisation that runs the sport and also polices it.

    As I said, quite incredible responses. People talking about a player having their own rules because of their status.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    I dont understand what hthe huge problem is.

    Players takes recreational drugs, fails subsequent test.

    They system worked as it should, the problem came because Andre lied about it & they took his word. What else could they do if they had no other proof? If he had passed the test I would be saying there is something wrong but the system caught him.

    I think this is a massive overreaction by people, it is a recreational drug that many people, whether we like it or not, take all the time.

    Agassi has admitted his mistakes & it takes nothing away from his achievements.

    This case brings up the blurred line is drugs in sport.

    Surely it should be a legal matter as it gives him no advantage over other players, I think the only time bans should be imposed by federations is when a performance enhancing drug has been used.

    Things like this should be dealt with in the proper channels, i.e. the police. If it is a first offence then a caution would suffice & let the man get on with their career & lives.

    Lets not bury heads int he sand over a huge social issue, the guy was depressed & made mistake. he suffered the guilt that went with it but he never cheated an opponent of his sport, jus himself.

  • Comment number 99.

    ‘Multi-millionaire Las Vegan has tried recreational drugs’

    Sorry, what was the story again…?

    Taking class A drugs at a low point in your life probably not the smartest move ever, but any damage done is only to the drug-taker personally and possibly his reputation. It’s worlds apart from a conscious decision to take performance-enhancing drugs in a systematic attempt to cheat and gain an illegal advantage over your fellow competitors.

    The fact that there are now much more rigorous and independent testing procedures in place, both in and out of competition, means what happened 12 years ago is very unlikely to recur.

  • Comment number 100.

    I have followed Tennis as an individual sport and Football as a team sport all my adult life. It was an experience to remember in the early years; Borg winning Wimbledon after Wimbledon, followed by John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, etc. Lendl was a favourite, in spite of his serious looks and his precision baseline play. He did acquire volleying skills and twice reached Wimbledon finals. In 1985, he came across Pat Cash and that was a match to watch. Pat Cash played some astonishing tennis that was almost unbelievable, which was to happen only once in his lifetime. My brother said that it was too good to be real and that Pat Cash was probably helped by some drugs. Pat's climbing up the spectators' seats gave an impression of his being in a state of ecstasy. Although I was rooting for a Lendl victory, I dismissed my brother's comments and said that this was not something tennis players would do at Wimbledon.
    Now that Andre' Agassi has confessed to drug taking and I am 25 years older, my memories do return to the way Pat Cash won the Wimbledon final in 1985. There are no repercussions to be expected out of Agassi's confession and there is no chance of any other player coming forward to tell us the truth. I guess that I shall have to keep my feelings to myself, about Lendl's defeat at the 1985 Wimbledon final.


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