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Agassi’s Upcoming Book Continues To Stir The World Of Tennis

Andre Agassi’s much-talked about auto-biography OPEN is available starting November 9. Over the past two weeks, the sports world has been rocked when excerpts from the book have leaked out, where Agassi admits crystal meth drug use (and not being prosecuted by the ATP Tour for testing positive for the drug) that his famed flowing hair was actually a hair-piece and abusive behavior from his father. Many tennis celebrities from Boris Becker to Martina Navratilova and many great champions have commented on Agassi’s book revelations. I wanted to get another perspective on this from another part of the tennis world. For this I interviewed Levar Harper-Griffith, a former top American junior, to provide perspective on the situation from those lower-ranked players in professional tennis. Harper Griffith once served as a practice partner for Agassi and the U.S. Davis Cup team during a 2000 match against Zimbabwe in Harare. Click here to buy Open – The Andre Agassi biography.

Question 1: Andre Agassi admitted earlier this week to using a drug called crystal meth. What do you think are the consequences for tennis in general and the ATP Tour?

First I’d like to say that Andre has always been one of my personal heroes for what he’s accomplished on and off the court. More so his work with his school in Las Vegas he has been a real inspiration to me personally of what people can do to give back and affect real positive change in peoples lives. That being said I think Andre coming out and admitting that he tested positive and the ATP did nothing, sends a bad message to the other players on tour that have tested positive and received punishment for those positive tests. I quite clearly shows preferential treatment in a situation that affects all of the players and the game itself.

Question 2: Agassi wrote a letter to the ATP Tour saying that he drank his assistant’s drink which was spiked with crystal meth. The ATP bought it or do you think they covered it up? If you think they covered it up then why would they do that?

Well whether they bought it or not or covered it up I couldn’t tell you. But for whatever reason it didn’t come out and that’s the big problem. There have been guys in recent past that have used similar reasons for positive tests and at least it was made public and the players had to prove their innocence to a degree. If it was covered up, which I would have no proof of, it’s obvious that Andre has been an absolute titan within the sport and it would hurt the sports image, similar to what baseball and track and field have had to go through in recent years. The dynamic of an athlete testing positive has a far greater affect in tennis because it is an individual sport and there is a lot at stake. Having the big name players at certain events and promoting the game has been at the forefront of rule changes in recent past. Making sure the top players play the top events. Having a player of Andre’s stature not be able to compete has a huge impact on the game as a whole. The sport relies on these big personalities at these events for a number of reasons.

Question 3: If the ATP decided to cover it up and the players who got caught using doping. Then aren’t they the victim of discrimination?

Sadly. if it’s not a clear case of discrimination it must be quite close, which is the dangerous part. I hate to say it, but now all the other players that tested positive have a real reason to ask the question why? Why was my offense made public and not his? Why was my reputation tarnished and not his? And if the tour was willing not to make Agassi’s case public. who knows who else might have tested positive and it never came out. The ATP might have to answer some tough questions in the months to come.

Question 4: What do you think of Agassi’s confessions?

I commend him for coming clean about his story and his struggles. I’m sure there were other players that have had success and failures that haven’t had the courage to come out and be as honest as he is willing to be. Since his resurgence to the top levels of the game he has always been a positive role model and I believe that being honest with yourself and the people around you is part of that. These are lessons that a lot of people can take from this both good and bad.

Question 5: I have been reading the forums and comments of blogs and some fans are literally screaming that he should be stripped of his titles. What are your thoughts on that?

I personally don’t think he should be stripped of any titles. It was in the past and we had the mechanisms in place to punish those who tested and they weren’t followed through. So to punish Agassi after the fact would be an immature way for the ATP to save face on a mistake that may or may not have been made in judgment.

Wimbledon champ Serena Williams visits Obama

WASHINGTON – It was tennis before baseball for President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Before heading off to St. Louis to throw the first pitch at the All-Star game, the president welcomed Wimbledon champion Serena Williams to the White House.

“It was amazing,” Williams said before her World Team Tennis match with the Washington Kastles. “I love President Obama; he has such an unbelievable presence, and he seems to be so normal — and he noticed my shoes. I think that was the highlight of the whole day, was he liked my shoes.”

Williams said she was wearing 5-inch heels for the presidential visit.

“He asked me, ‘Should I be wearing high heels?’ So I thought that was kind of funny because he may have been right,” Williams said. “Because it is a job hazard for me, but I insist on wearing them.”

Williams got to meet Michelle Obama and the rest of the first family.

“I didn’t know she had such an amazing personality,” Williams said. “She had me cracking up and laughing. I knew she was a great person, but now I really understand how important this first family is to the United States. And the kids were just so cute and sweet, and the dog was nice.”