Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Andre Agassi And Doping (Updated)

Andre Agassi greets the crowd while being honored during the "Evening with Legends" at the opening night festivities of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Monday, Aug. 31, 2009.

Andre Agassi greets the crowd while being honored during the "Evening with Legends" at the opening night festivities of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Monday, Aug. 31, 2009.


From the "bombshell" tell-all, which doesn't come as much of a surprise to me as it seems to have for others.

Agassi learns that he has failed a drugs test. "He reminds me that tennis has three classes of drug violation," Agassi writes. "Performance-enhancing drugs ... would constitute a Class 1, he says, which would carry a suspension of two years. However, he adds, crystal meth would seem to be a clear case of Class 2. Recreational drugs." That would mean a three-month suspension.

"My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I've achieved, whatever I've worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It's filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.

"I say Slim, whom I've since fired, is a known drug user, and that he often spikes his sodas with meth - which is true. Then I come to the central lie of the letter. I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim's spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.

"I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it." The ATP reviewed the case - and threw it out.

But wait. There's more.

Moreover, in ’97 (when he began his infamous “comeback” late in the fall), he tested positive at a tournament and says he was informed by the ATP that he faced public exposure and suspension.

He writes that his friend Slim dumped “a small pile of powder on the coffee table [and] snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I’ve just crossed. There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away…every negative thought I’ve ever had. It’s a cortisone shot to the sub cortex. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful…I’ve never felt such energy. I’m seized by an urge, a desperate longing to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom…When there’s nothing left to clean, I do laundry. All the laundry. I fold every sweater and T-shirt and still I haven’t made a dent in my energy…I could do anything right now, anything, man, anything …I could get in the car and drive to Palm Springs and tee off for 18 holes, then drive home and make lunch and go for a swim. I don’t sleep for two days. When I finally do, it’s the sleep of the dead and the innocent.”

Then Agassi wrote a letter to the ATP claiming that he had mistakenly drunk one of Slim’s sodas that had been spiked with meth.

The ATP accepted Agassi’s plea of innocence, never asking for evidence nor apparently even questioning him or Slim.

Emphasis all mine.

Wasn't Agassi taking cortisone shots on a regular basis at the end of his competitive playing days?

Just saying.

Crystal meth is not a recreational drug. Anyone who has used it, even once, will tell you as much. St. Andre cheated and lied and got away with it.

So. The next time I tell you that a governing body of our beloved sport would cover up a failed doping test in order to protect a star and a sport, you may or may not believe me. But you sure can't say it's some crazy conspiracy theory. And if you think the tennis media didn't play a part in the cover up, think again.

How many other players got off without having their reputations tarnished, but more importantly, their earnings revoked?

I guess we'll have to wait for her their memoirs.

The stuff that makes my stomach turn.


WADA wants answers:

LONDON — The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency wants tennis authorities to "shed light" on Andre Agassi's admission that he used a banned drug and escaped a suspension by blaming his positive test on a spiked drink.

On Wednesday, WADA president John Fahey says he is disappointed by the revelations in Agassi's upcoming autobiography. He says Agassi is a role model who should alert youth to the dangers of doping.

Agassi admits in the book that he used crystal meth in 1997. He says he lied to ATP Tour officials to explain his positive test, claiming he accidentally drank from a soda spiked with meth.

Agassi writes that the ATP accepted his explanation and dropped the case.

Fahey says WADA expects the ATP "to shed light on this allegation."

Let's see how much light is shed.

I say none.

Meanwhile, Agassi is paid and the publisher wants that $5 million advance back. Stat.


Karen said...

I guess we are not conspiracy theorists or haters. However, the same line that holds for some holds for many others. For years people have been saying the same things about certain players. Makes you really wonder now. From this day forward many players who have been out of the game for whatever reason (read "retirement") will now have the stigma of did he or did she stuck to their names forever. said...

I'm not much of a tennis fan, but this is shocking news. I'll have to read his autobiography that is due out next month to find out more.

Dapxin said...

turns your stomach,
and tempts you to lose
your faith,
if not for life,
thats worth living in itself.

edma1022 said...

Craig, I agree with you on this one (even if I'm still cynical about any dubious 'conspiracy' ... eg. draw rigs, schedules, etc.).

I believe Andre was coddled by the establishment.

Not just on this case but for most of his career - like in the USO scheduling picks during his championship run vs Roger in 2005 (yes, Roger was not always benefited by scheduling). He had 3 hard, successive 5-setters (vs Malisse, Blake, Ginepri) on his way to the finals and they needed to rest him.

However, Craig, I think the distinction the ATP makes is against PEDs versus rec drugs. You are maybe arguing against it being a 'addictive drug' vs a 'rec drug' (eg. a simple MJ joint). Crystal meth (or 'shabu', as we call it in Asia) is definitely, absolutely a dangerous, addictive, damaging, destructive drug ... but it does not do what PEDs do. Exactly the opposite, IMO.

Craig Hickman said...

Did you read Agassi's description of the drug's effect?

I'll publish it again:

"Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away…every negative thought I’ve ever had. It’s a cortisone shot to the sub cortex. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful…I’ve never felt such energy. I’m seized by an urge, a desperate longing to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom…When there’s nothing left to clean, I do laundry. All the laundry. I fold every sweater and T-shirt and still I haven’t made a dent in my energy…I could do anything right now, anything, man, anything …I could get in the car and drive to Palm Springs and tee off for 18 holes, then drive home and make lunch and go for a swim. I don’t sleep for two days."

Any drug that gives you euphoria and makes you feel like you can run a marathon can enhance a specific performance, especially in an individual sport like tennis where you have to believe you can do anything it takes to beat your opponent on the day.

Once you crash, you crash. But till you do, you might hit the ball harder than you've ever hit it, take bigger risks on the biggest points, chase down a ball you'd never even try to chase down when not under the influence of that drug.

Tennis is mental. If you are feeling no anxiety whatsoever when you step up to serve for the match, then your performance in match game can be enhanced, especially if you have a mentality prone to choking.

The lines are blurred with so many drugs. You don't necessarily need a steroid to get an competitive advantage, even if it's fleeting.

Lest we forget, caffeine is considered performance enhancing if enough of it is ingested in a small enough time frame.

edma1022 said...

OK that makes sense. I read it as - at the onset of the realization of a career gone to waste (the suspension) - "There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness." - he then suddenly wants to "clean up" his act - "I’m seized by an urge, a desperate longing to clean" ...

I was reading it as the turning point in his career where he began to methodically pick himself up, clean up his body, and proceed to play serious tennis. This, after all, is an autobio - a tell-all to sell and make money - so drama should also play a part.

But you're right. Shabu does that (euphoria), followed by bouts of depression.

You're also right - he lied, they knew, they let him get away.


I'm now beginning to research some recent 'suspensions' and semi-'retirements' .... hhhmmm.

Savannah said...

You're also right - he lied, they knew, they let him get away.

Edma you summed the situation up quite nicely.

Helen W said...

To me this revelation discredits our sport beyond words. If you're a man from Argentina, your career can be in tatters (Canas, Coria) even if you are innocent. But if you are one of the favoured by TPTB, every possible accommodation will be extended to you.

I am so sick of the blatant favouritism continually displayed by the ATP and WTA, along with their lackeys in the media.

Craig Hickman said...

Helen W, it's really a big turnoff, isn't it?

MMT said...

I'm curious - prior to this latest revelation, had anyone ever theorized that Agassi failed a drug test and that it was covered up?

Craig Hickman said...

MMT, before I started this blog I used to frequent a particular message board where I went out on a limb and suggested several players failed drug tests on both tours and had the results covered up. Agassi was on that list.

Once I began this blog, I decided to take a more discreet, for lack of a better word, approach, choosing instead to share my feelings with a few other bloggers and friends via email.

However, I've done a little more than insinuate on this blog that a certain female player has been protected in much the same way.

I could list a few others, but I won't.

I believe it will all be revealed in time.

Karen said...

Perhaps with this revelation the governing bodies of the sport will finally come clean about its stars. The other day I saw a blog account over at tennisweek which basically states "Ivo Minar WTF". Of all the players who are doping, they go and catch Ivo Minar. I was hoping that the writer would have named other players, but no dice. What annoys me is that journalists know the ones who have failed drug tests, and they have joined the establishment in having a dirty sport. It really does make your skin crawl because no longer can we claim that our sport is clean. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of Agassi either now or in the past. I admire what he has done for under privileged children as regards educating them and making them respect themselves etc. It is quite unfortunate that he has felt the need to unburden himself at this time. I am not sure whether it was a cleansing process for him or what the deal was but one thing it has done it has made WADA sit up and take notice of this situation. One question that puzzles me though, if it is that WADA does the doping test, is it not WADA's responsibility to ensure that the results are made public. Why is it up to the governing bodies to either suspend or keep secret players who have tested positive. What it is going to do is paint everyone with the same brush, i.e. those players who are genuinely injured for whatever reason and need to take time away from the game, as against those who have been suspended for failing a drug test.

Helen W said...

I find that this whole episode is very painful to me.

If I may briefly relate a personal experience: As many of you know, I show cats. At a show a few months ago, I met another exhibitor "Judy" because she, myself, and another friend (Denise) kept being at judging rings at the same time due to the way the shows work. She was so personable and humourous that we all had fun together, pretending to be Shakespeare's witches ("When shall we three meet again ...."). I made a real effort to get to know her because she was so appealing.

At another show about 2 weeks later I learned that Judy had cancer and was not expected to live. In fact she died that very weekend.

So. To me hers was an incredible act of heroism. All the time we were together, she must have been both in pain and had the knowledge that she was going to die within weeks. Yet there was absolutely no sign from her demeanour. I still think of her and the dignity and class that she displayed.

How many unsung, unknown, everyday people display such courage? I think that there are many.

So now I think of millionaire Andre Agassi. He was stressed out about his career and his marriage, so he took drugs. When he was caught, he lied.

He is one of fortune's favourites, as far as natural gifts, career, etc.

He also publicly courted an image that would set him up as a role model.

I can't help feeling that his decision to "come clean" now -- after his career is over -- is another act of self indulgence.

Do athletes and other celebrities have obligations to live to a higher moral standard? To me, if they actively court celebrity in a way that makes them role models, then YES.

I wish the world could know about Judy instead of Andre Agassi.

Craig Hickman said...

Karen, all this happened before the ITF signed onto the WADA code in 2004. Still, both tours conducted their own anti-doping programs. I believe the ATP handed over their program to the ITF in 2005 and the WTA came on board in 2007, though I may have the hear wrong for the WTA.

Until WADA, governing bodies with independent programs could do whatever they wanted.

Karen said...

@Craig, thanks for the clarification.
@Helen, sending you big hugs for your friend Judy. What an awesome woman to find the strength to persevere even when things go wrong. Many message boards are of the view that Andre should not be held to a moral compass. When you set yourself up as the epitome of what is sportsmanlike in your chosen field, then you open yourself up to outrate from people who you have basically betrayed. And this is the same fellow who came out swinging against Serena Williams. What a hypocrite.

Craig Hickman said...

If the BBC calls me in a few minutes as they said they would, I'll be interviewed here around 5:30 EDT about Agassi's confession.


Helen W, sorry about your loss.

Craig Hickman said...

I meant 2:30 EDT. Which is about now. Hope that phone rings. ;)

Dapxin said...


I just tuned in..:)

Dapxin said...

+ It feels weird, listening to the bbc worldservice in london.

Its been ages :lol

Helen W said...

Karen you hit the nail on the head. That's exactly how I feel -- betrayed. Big time. By Agassi and by the ATP & media.

And as you so succinctly put it:

you set yourself up as the epitome of what is sportsmanlike in your chosen field, then you open yourself up to outrage from people who you have basically betrayed.

In addition, he has carried on with this deception for years. And now he reveals all in a book from which he will get royalties?


Helen W said...

Craig and Karen -- thanks for your kind words about Judy. She was very special.

I guess the contrast between her unsung & unknown integrity and Agassi's hypocritical presentation of himself as a great sportsman is as gall to my soul.

Craig Hickman said...

Helen, I'm sure he'll donate his advance and his royalties to charity, no?

Savannah said...

Helen I'm so sorry for your loss.

Craig did I miss it?

Craig Hickman said...

No, Savannah, you didn't miss it. I didn't get the call.

No biggie.

Karen said...

I think as helenW said that this reveal is more about Agassi than it is about him trying to get something off his chest. What better way to sell a book.

MMT said...

Helen - I'm sorry to hear about your friend - seems like an extraordinary woman.

I think Agassi's revelation is Agassi's alone, and I wouldn't impugn the entire sport as a result it. I would also point out that Richard Gasquet received (almost) exactly the same result as Agassi - although he did have to serve a suspension - for a similar test result and explanation. The only difference is that Agassi's was kept secret while Gasquet's was made public. But it seems to me that not much has changed.

As for the continued speculation about Henin, again, in the absence of proof to the contrary, I still find it to be a bit of a hatefully wishful thinking. I today's environment, I don't see how such a story could be kept secret, and I also find it fantastical that the world's collective media conspired to keep Agassi's result a secret and/or continues to conspire to keep modern players results secret.

To me it’s too good of a story for the unseen army of aspiring investigative journalists, to keep secret out of some special affection for Agassi – after all, he is not universally loved in tennis, and certainly wasn’t in 1997. In the end, despite Agassi's revelation, theories on other players test results are still just that - theories. And, if we are to throw in the idea that the media are included in the effort to keep it a secret, that is necessarily a conspiracy theory, and I lend no credence to that at all.

Finally, as to Agassi's obligation to be a role model - I think that's absurd. No celebrity can be expected to uphold the virtues of a role model for everyone, and I do not expect celebrity to come at the expense of the permission to make mistakes. If you want a role model, find someone you actually know and model yourself or your expectations of how your children should behave on them. I am neither disappointed nor supportive of Agassi on this matter - I am not surprised either, as I'm sure many have made similar choices to his, and I don't think a celebrity has any greater obligation to live their private life any more virtuously than anyone else.

That people project their idolatry on the famous, and in particular famous athletes, is not the problem of the athlete, it is the problem of the idolaters. I've never held Agassi or any other tennis player for that matter, in a higher regard because they appear to be a nice guy and/or are perceived to be squeaky clean, and I don't think it's fair to them to oblige them to be infallible simply because their fans choose to project that infallibility on them. At the end of the day, I would still pay money to watch him play tennis.

To me, we should leave it at appreciation for their tennis and nothing more. We don't know these people any better than the neighbor at the end of our street, and any presumption of obligation on their part, based on a false assumption of familiarity, is not their problem.

Craig Hickman said...

Controversy sells better than sex.

Mad Professah said...

Why should the publisher get their advance back? It's all about selling books, isn't it??

What better way to sell books than to have a controversy?

I'm sure Andre knew very much what he was doing.

However, it also calls very much into questions Richie Red Shoes "slap on the wrist" for ingesting cocaine "by kissing a woman in a night club."

DOES ANYONE believe tat explanation?

And don't get me started on Justine Henin's "18 month retirement."

Craig Hickman said...

MMT said...

And, if we are to throw in the idea that the media are included in the effort to keep it a secret, that is necessarily a conspiracy theory, and I lend no credence to that at all.


Well, that's your prerogative, of course. But Matt Cronin tweeted this earlier today:

"I'm not happy with SI, People, London Times for ignoring the Nov. 9 embargo on Agassi book info. Need a Hawkeye ruling on how fair that was."

Now, we can chalk this up to a tennis "journalist" wanted his colleagues to respect an embargo to go along with a book release. But he calls it unfair? And I've been told from a reliable source that the SI writer who broke the embargo story got in trouble.

Athletes fail drug tests. Not all of them become public information, even in this environment.

We all see what we see and believe what we believe. But Agassi's case tells us that governing bodies can and do cover up failed drug tests.

It's not a one-off.

Karen said...

@MMT, I hear what you are saying and I agree with some of the points that you have made. Whilst many of us right thinking adults are better able to judge for ourselves who we hold up as role models, the fact of the matter is that for years Agassi modelled himself and marketed himself as first the bad boy of tennis and a trendsetter, then as a reformed man whose sole aim in life was to help the under privileged. That is marketing. Whether it is wrong or not, that is how he allowed himself to be marketed. He, or anyone defending him, cannot now say that he is fallible etc. I am sure that Agassi knew the reaction that would emanate from this reveal.
As to conspiracy theories, if ever there was a case for a conspiracy theory being proven, as well as the fact that the sport's governing body engages in cover ups, this is most assuredly it.

Craig Hickman said...

As for the tennis media's complicity in an alleged cover up:

You can be the best aspiring investigative journalist on the planet, but if no one will publish your story in a "legitimate" outlet, it won't see the light of day.

Unless, of course, you start a blog and publish your findings yourself. But then, of course, you're just a blogger so who would take your loony and irresponsible theories seriously anyway? And if no other major outlet covers the story, well, then, it can't possibly be true.

As of this writing, Internet journalists not affiliated with a major outlet cannot get credentials to cover any event.

That's how insular tennis journalism is. That's how insular it will remain.

The tennis establishment isn't immune to corporatism and all that it attends. Far from it.

For so long, people have believed the ATP or the WTA wouldn't cover up anything, because what on earth would be the purpose? so many asked. And now that we know at least one governing body in tennis did exactly that, we want to call these cover ups fantastical?

I find no credence in that perspective at all.

Helen W said...

MMT I appreciate your reasonsed response and respect your views, even though I do not share all of them.

I agree with you that it is premature to claim certain players (Henin in particular) are drug users without any concrete evidence to support the claim. One of my favourite players (Nadal) is repeatedly accused of being on steroids based solely on his physique. It gets wearing.

I take your point about us fans projecting our expectations on to our favourite athletes. But I don't think the situation is so one-sided as you make it out. A lot of athletes (and other celebrities) publicly cultivate their roles as role models. I put Agassi in their number. When someone does so, while, for years, knowing that they are doing so hypocritically, I feel no compunction on holding their feet to the fire.

There is more than just Agassi involved in this episode. Other people and institutions are also being hurt and damaged.

Helen W said...

Mad Professah says:

Why should the publisher get their advance back? It's all about selling books, isn't it??

Why indeed? It's not like they never read it or knew the contents before it came out.


MMT said...

"But Agassi's case tells us that governing bodies can and do cover up failed drug tests."

Agassi's case tell us that governing bodies can (not news) and HAVE (news) covered up failed drug tests, but it says absolutely nothing about Henin.

At it's core, the conspiracy theory requires the absence of proof to be viable, but that same absence of proof both begins and ends the viability of the theory, particularly when the proof has nothing to do with the accused, in this case Henin.

What I think is that Henin ticked off a lot of people by sticking it to their favorite players, yourself included, and for this her punishment is this conspiracy that she failed a drug test. But that strikes me as being sour grapes, EVEN IF it turns out to be true, because there is no evidence at all whatsoever - just innuendo and an axe to grind.

I mean, if theorize that it's safe to cross the street without looking both ways, and then I do so without getting hit, does it mean it was a good theory to begin with?

MMT said...

I'm not saying your crazy for espousing a theory, by the way, just that your particular theory is tinted with more than an a passing, and dare I say, disproportionate interest in its potential truth.

There are plenty of examples of players who have taken steroids, but I didn't hear too many theories about them, although they would have been proven true.

I'll take you at your word on the fact that you suspected Agassi because you don't strike me as a prevaricator, but your specific theory about Henin strikes me as pernicious and the only thing that would prove it to me is if HENIN gets busted, not Agassi.

Craig Hickman said...

MMT, that's an easy observation, and I'm used to it by now, but my "theory" has nothing to do with punishing a player for her lack of sportsmanship against another player.

The axe I have to grind isn't so much against Henin, it's against those with the power to nail a "nobody" from Argentina or Italy or the Czech Republic to the wall while giving a star, a top 5 player or an Aussie, a Brit, or an American a slap on the wrist, if that.

Because this isn't a court of law, all evidence doesn't need to be material to be compelling.

That's all I'll say about that.

edma1022 said...

Personally, I think PEDs do more harm than good for a tennis player ... as opposed to, say, a track star, a basketball/football player, or olympic swimmer. The nature of the sport requires precision, a solid frame of mind, and absolute hand-eye coordination and taking these drugs produce no benefit whatsoever but provide serious competitive disadvantages.

Let's not get carried away. These men/women are normal folks outside of the courts. Their lifestyle (traveling around the world, etc.) normally gets them in touch with these things.

Marat said this about Gasquet's doping: "Everyone makes mistakes. I feel sorry for Gasquet. When you're at a party, at a huge table full of people having fun, it's absurd to have to watch what glass you're drinking from..." (although Richie's take on the famous kiss borders on absurdity itself).

Having said this, I do agree that these people hold themselves accountable to the public, and should comport themselves to the highest degree of what is right in the sport ... and the governing bodies should make sure they do so and inflict punishment where required.

Craig Hickman said...

MMT, I enjoy your challenges.

Truth can be ascertained in several ways. And I'm always interested in ascertaining it.

For the record, that list of players that I won't list includes about 7 players. It's not all about Henin.

Veruca Salt said...

Craig, just give us a "little" hint. just a teensy one?!

lynney62 said...

I am feeling fully disgusted with this whole story. I always felt great respect for Agassi for his achievements and fair-play...Ha! Flush that right down the toilet. I'm sick to death of celebrities and people in general for "clearing their own conscience" by airing their dirty laundry in public and getting paid to do so. Football, baseball, basketball and now tennis....corrupt! What's (sorry for the rant...)

Graf_sampras said...

it's gotten so that it becomes difficult to believe anyone. - having said that :

a lot is also probably dependent on the basic mindset of a person:

it is not different from when a person SO SO wishes to become rich that one must steal..

consider the bankers alone..

desire can be very strong and also a good motivation to achieve...some succumb to it to such an extent they resort to things that are unethical...others maintain their equanimity and sense of proportion and while they may even fail in their desires for NOT doing the unethical the end - some people probably have a strong enough perspective or "self-respect" that they will not resort to these things..and CAN say.."this far and no further".

I believe PETE SAMPRAS belongs to that latter category...saying:

"I'm not a naturally suspicious person, but one thing that troubles me whenever there's a doping controversy is the way guys always have the excuses: I drank my wife's medication bymistake..the doctor gave the wrong prescription...the testing procedure was flawed: in other words, the dog always eats the homework. ...I Took a lot of pills in my time...all kinds of vitamins and always went to the doctor to be sure they were legal..and that was before doping raised its head as a serious issue. I can be done. ...If you take steroids you should be penalized unless there is some clear and mitigating circumstance. End of Story.

The other thing for me was that I could never cheat. I just couldn't justify taking an unfair or illegal advantage and doing so would have messed with my mind so much that it would have wiped any good the drugs might have done.

Even If I was sure other guys were doing it, I just wouldn't take steroids for Ethical reasons..not even if everyone around me egged me on, telling me that everyone else was on them, not even if it means the difference between keeping up with the pact or falling behind.

There's something else. It's RARELY the top guys who pay for the sins of the dopers. thing drugs can't do is make you into a wimbledon cahmpion or give you the game to beat Federer..

The guys who really get hurt are the players in the doper's peer group, where


IN way - sampras might have been as stubborn against "having an unfair or illegal advantage" from steroid taking - as reflected in the fact that - of ALL the players for over a decade

only sampras stubbornly refused to change to the "new raquets" to have more power, more depth, more control, etc. etc. etc. .

IMO. ONLY ONE player in the last 30 years played as honestly as possible with both "training" and "fitness" - and his technology.

and that's pete sampras.

all the rest have to bow to him. including Roger Federer. and Andre Agassi.

ALL of them.

Graf_sampras said...

as for players TODAY -- i have my OWN suspicions....including among players at the top of the last ten years.


Craig Hickman said...

Veruca Salt, I gave more than a little hint in one of my previous comments.

And there are a few players on the list that I actually like, so it's not just about "hating".

Karen said...

@Graf, nice to see you posting again. Funny you should say that Sampras never changed his equipment in order to compete against bigger guys. There are a number of players on both the men's and women's tours who have stuck to the old traditional way of doing things. I recall when it was noted that Serena Williams uses gut strings instead of synthetic on her racquets in order to have a better "feel" of the ball, I recall a lot of commentators expressing shock at that. Clearly, the fact that she hit with so much power and spin, why would she need to "feel" the ball. As far as they were concerned Serena just goes out there and hits the ball hard and powers her way past her opponents. Another person who has taken a hit in his resolve to use a smaller racquet as well as gut strings is Federer.

PeytonAllen said...

I remember a few months ago listening to one of the lead investigators in the Pete Rose case essentially say Rose brought it on himself, that baseball was willing to work with him, and do it silently as long as he admitted everything to them and was willing to meet and work on his problems. But according to Dowd, Rose got bad advice from one of his lawyers and choose to deny, deny, deny and fight, fight, fight. The rest is history.

Would baseball really look the other way, as long as Rose would work with them? I dunno, would they turn a blind eye to steroids being used by 50% of the league as suggested by one former NL MVP and admitted user? Well...

Craig, correct me if I'm wrong but I think you used to accuse Agassi of being a steroid user, no? I see your point about meth potentially being a PED, but let's be honest he was taking it for recreational reasons.

Color me shocked when the news broke. But not destroyed. I understand Agassi's desire to want to write the most open autobiography ever, and more power to him. Among his revelations apparently are that his mohawk hair in the early '90s was a hair piece, which fell apart in the shower at one French Open. Nice!

I think Agassi will replace Johnny Mac as the most interesting, called upon American men's tennis figure in the future. His story is an onion for sure. From the lunatic father, to his failed marriage, his secret hatred of the game, etc. etc. I imagine the book would be a pretty deep read.

I don't think this hurts the new Agassi image he's created for himself as a Jedi master. He finally figured out how to live life for himself and good for him.

As for whether he'll give his advance to charity I don't think I'd question his charitable efforts. I think he's doing the kind of work than Jim Brown implores Jordan or Tiger Woods to do. Is Agassi perfect? Hell no. His revelation will effect him in the long run, it'll only make him more of a complete sell. Didn't Johnny Mac say in the '80s Tatum got him to try coke a few times? The Agassi story is just an ATM deposit now for everyone involved.

The real loser is the ATP. In '97 they had to be on their hands and knees prayer Agassi, their meal ticket, woke up the next day ready to devote himself back to the sport. To just toss a drug test away without any further detection is laughable. It now makes the decision to give Gasquet a get out of jail free card questionable at best, as well.

As for Justine Henin, I agree with everything MMT has said.

Graf_sampras said...

karen -- a lot of discussion has been made about the difference between roger's SUPPOSED 'smaller and gut' raquet.

what some have said is that it is not really as small as what pete originally played, and CERTAINLY not nearly as heavy..and it IS a combination of "luxilon" and gut.

pete's was pure gut, generally LESS bouncy and pliant and therefore gave a player far less "time" to "feel" the ball and then control it..and being so heavy really required a very strong hand and wrist to generate power.

in the season 2004 , or perhaps it was 2005 ,

top players were asked by a reporter -

"would you be willing to RETURN to the raquet of pete sampras or even wood...IF OTHERS joined you?

this was during the short season between the FO and Wimbledon when people were playing the rotterdam, queens, halle

and Roger's answer I recall reading long ago (although i can't remember now which european news that was) -

"NO...because i don't want to lose my edge".

Roddick answered :
"you wouldn't see me a mile near that".

it reminded me of agassi's OWN remark in the early 90's

when the SAME question was asked of him and others and pete:

"would you be willing to return to WOOD? IF others joined you?"

agassi then, answered:

" tried pete's but it's just TOO difficult"...

PEte when asked in the nineties :

"if others joined ?...yeah, sure. no problem".

in wimbledon 2004, or 05 -- the year when Davenport "retired" (the first time before her comeback)

it was also the year that the long-time senior supervisor of matches retired. i don't recall his name.

but in keeping with his year's retiring after such a long career: he was asked about the tennis.

on RACKETS - he said this (i think i read it on a BBC article -- after he was interviewed after he supervised his LAST match...a davenport match)....

, as nearly as I can recall his words:

"ROGER has all the shots...WHEREAS pete sampras grew up with wood. what people don;t udnerstand is only pete's old raquet was truly closer to the wood..try these shots TODAY with pete's raquet and you'd break your wrist..i have all these raquets in my collection...the reason pete had a more conventional grip is because of that".


the thing is -- even during their exhibitions - roger was already using , supposedly -- the "pete raquet"...and yet some have said that it's really a "paint job" with specifications made for roger only that CERTAINLY is NOT like pete's. and never would have even been available during pete's time.

you recall perhaps that a few years back - when roger was selling the "roger raquet" - sold as "wilson 90" a la pete's old one -

the article that examined it ALSO said:

"THE TRUE SPECIFICATIONS of Roger's Raquet itself, is a jealously guarded secret".

my question has always BEEN....

having read from people that have bought the old version of pete and that of roger's claimed "pete's raquet" that have said there is a difference, particularly in the "give" and in the weight:

WOULD roger have HIT the ball as HARD and with PRECISION with a far smaller sweet spot as he DOES -- if the raquet TRULY is the exact specification as pete had?

one reason , everyone knows, that pete's raquet strings often broke..was not just because he strung them extremely TIGHT - but also because of how hard he hit..

however - when pete HIT with the NEW raquets - still as close to what he had , supposedly - or something like ROGER's own which won roger many titles

pete quipped :"gee it's almost like could really do things we never were able to do as much before"......

and he is NOT the only one of players that had played careers using the wood, the hybrids and of course something similar to pete's own .

Graf_sampras said...

but back to the admission by agassi.

whatever the merits of his admission in itself, there is also a difference between having ingested what are usually called "recreational" drugs that may or may not enhance performance.

that's up to the individuals among us to decide whether it does or does not.

i would certainly not know since i see no sense in being "under the influence"....although my own college days experience of "grass" seemed to MAKE me think (or whatever that perception was) that i was very "sharp" even if i probably wasn't at all.

i even wrote "Poetry" that next morning was gobbledygook! lol.

but each to his , her own. whatever....

but one question for ourselves is:

as FANS of the sport and of particular players - WHAT IS our favorite player turned out to have actually CHEATED?

not just these "recreational drugs" ?

what IF a player we like REALLY DID contrive to take enhancement substances and by THAT - won somehow where otherwise he or she wouldn't have?.

They say Peter Korda won his AO because of steroids and so was banned.

WOULD have have won if he had not taken steroids, if indeed he did, although he still claims he didn't?.

WOULD a player REALLY go through a year , or several years showing hardly any signs of fatigue or physical weaknesses, in matches and then be shown that it was partly due to drugs that may have improved, say...the blood oxygen intake capacity?.

Craig Hickman said...

Peyton, the remark about charity was sarcasm. I have never questioned Agassi's commitment to charity.

Now why don't you just go right on ahead and publish my list. I'm sure you remember everybody on it. ;)

Craig Hickman said...

We can speculate about players until we're blue in the face and never see eye-to-eye.

But I want to know one thing: IF the governing bodies are still covering up for certain players while hanging others out to dry (and unless someone can prove they're not then the possibility remains) and IF the tennis media is complicit in which stories break and which stories remain embargoed (and unless someone can prove it's not then the possibility remains), would you be upset by this or would you just consider it par for the course and focus on the tennis itself?

I don't believe I've said anything untoward about Agassi or any other player in this thread. Most of my disappointment has been laid directly at the doorstep of the ATP, the WTA, the anti-doping authorities, and the mainstream tennis media.

I, for one, am not a fan of smoke and mirrors or favoritism.

That is my point.

Karen said...

@Graf, perhaps one of the reasons why people dispute that Roger is using a racquet similar to Pete's is the fact that Roger does hit the ball very hard and therefore he could not have been using either gut or a smaller racquet. People who know these things say that one of the reasons why Roger hits the ball hard is because he is very early to the ball and he keeps his eye on it. Others say that he is extremely strong (even though he does not look it). One of his assets is his movement and his ability to get into position fairly quickly, a trait he shares with Serena. People also say that one of the many reasons for his losses (apart from that awful backhand and his opponents) is the fact that he seems to have lost a step or two in getting to the ball, same thing with Serena and Venus as well.
@Craig, in response to your question, if one of my faves were found to have cheated and it was covered up, I would be disappointed, followed by anger, followed by resignation, followed by the fact that I may decide not to follow the sport any longer. In life I have always tried to exemplify fair play. On the tennis court, when I am playing league matches, if I am not sure about where a ball landed, I give the point to my opponent, and I expect the same in return. If I am of the view that my opponent is cheating, then I will be very angry, and perhaps will forfeit a match or just go through the motions and then leave the court, never to play with said individual again. It is after all only a sport and I really need to sleep at nights because at my age bags really do not look nice in the mornings.

MMT said...

What's this about Agassi's publisher wanting the advance back?

Craig Hickman said...

MMT, that was poor writing.

Publishers want to make their advances back through sales as soon as possible. All I meant is that such a controversy will be great for book sales, so I suspect they'll recover it in pretty short order.

Graf_sampras said...

Federer 'disappointed' by Agassi

Eurosport - Thu, 29 Oct 21:15:00 2009
Buzz Up!

World number one Roger Federer has said that he is disappointed by Andre Agassi's admission that he took crystal meth in 1997, while Rafael Nadal also condemned the American.
Roger Federer of Switzerland (L) cries as he receives his trophy during the presentation ceremony after winning the men's final against Robin Soderling of Sweden at the French Open, REUTERS - 0
More Stories

* World reaction to Agassi admission
* Agassi admits drug use
* Reed: Agassi admission poses questions
* Factbox: Andre Agassi

Agassi revealed in his forthcoming autobiography, currently being serialised in The Times, that he was introduced to the drug by his assistant and subsequently lied to the ATP when he was informed he had failed a drugs test.

"It was a shock when I heard the news," Federer said. "I am disappointed and I hope there are no more such cases in future.

"Our sport must stay clean."

World number two Nadal was equally disappointed by the news.

"To me it seems terrible," Nadal said at an awards ceremony in Madrid on Thursday. "Why is he saying this now that he has retired?

"It's a way of damaging the sport that makes no sense.

"I believe our sport is clean and I am the first one that wants that.

"Cheaters must be punished and if Agassi was a cheater during his career he should have been punished."

World reaction to Agassi's admission has been mixed with most condemning the lies told about failing the drugs test rather than the use of the recreational drug itself - and Federer also noted that Agassi "has done a lot for tennis, both as a player and as a human being".

"Today he raises millions of dollars for his foundation for disadvantaged children," the 15-times Grand Slam champion added.

Women's world number two Serena Williams, meanwhile, reacted to the news by plugging her own book.

"I don't even know what crystal meth is so, you know, that's what my reaction to it is. I haven't read anything about Andre Agassi's book. All I know is that I have a book coming out," she said at the WTA Championships in Doha.

Serena's sister Venus, the world number seven, added: "His book will probably sell. It seems very interesting, to say the least."

But Agassi found support at home with fellow American and Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick saying the 39-year-old remained his hero despite the revelations.

"Andre is and always will be my idol. I will judge him on how he has treated me and how he has changed the world for (the) better," Roddick wrote on his Twitter page.
Pippa Davis / Eurosport

bryan said...

Of course Meth is a recreational drug - it is certainly not a performance enhancing drug. I think Agassi's admission and the fact that his performance on the court suffered greatly during his 'meth year' will eventually be seen as a cautionary tale and a brave admission from an over-hyped superstar. said...

If Agassi is trying to use a scandal to sell more books, I think it might backfire on him

Sean said...

Did you guys miss the part where his ranking tanks that same year to the lowest it has ever been? If that was a performance enhancing drug - it's not working too well. Just maybe it was just some guy who is pretty depressed about his failing marriage who gets caught up in the common temptation that is drug addiction. And maybe at this point in his life he has finally grown mature enough to admit his mistakes to the world. Did he do the right thing at the time of the incident - no, but I still respect that be bothered to fess up to it when there is clearly no benefit to doing so now.