crystal meth

AGASSI, SAMPRAS RIVALRY UP IN FLAMES: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Rivalry Up in Flames – By now everyone around the globe must know about the infamous spat that took place between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at the “Hit for Haiti” charity event. I’ll go on record as saying that both men were wrong for the way that they behaved that night. But I’m also placing the overwhelming amount of blame on Agassi, and he’s the only one of the two for whom I also felt disgust. Agassi’s mouth was going a mile a minute the entire evening and taking subtle jabs at Sampras. Finally Sampras snapped, and his response was to do his impression of Agassi. I had no problem with this. Sampras did this same impression at an exhibition event several years ago with Agassi, and in response, Agassi then did an excellent Sampras impersonation. That was all Agassi needed to do last week. Instead, he hit Pete way below the belt. Even Agassi’s apology was sorely lacking, as he admitted to the joke falling flat but then faulted Sampras for not rolling with it. Why should he, Andre? He was the one being embarrassed in front of a stadium full of people. Sampras already took the high road once when Agassi’s book first came out, and Sampras offered little comment on it. To ask him to do so a second time in that kind of an atmosphere is too much. Worse still, Sampras is unlikely going to be willing to put himself in that kind of a situation again any time soon, so good luck to any exhibition organizer trying to get those two out on the court to hit for charity.

Void of Punishment – Not to keep harping on Andre Agassi, but I was also disappointed (though not surprised) to see that the ITF has come out with a statement declaring that the statute of limitations has passed, and there can be no retroactive punishment for Agassi’s past use of crystal meth. In many ways, it’s a shame that there’s no real retribution here. I can accept that people make mistakes, but to see Agassi get by with this on top of last Friday at the charity exhibition, this verdict is just one more thing that makes me shake my head and wonder how much more he’s going to be allowed to get by with before someone steps in and does something.

Pakistani Pullout – In a sad story that ran earlier this week, the ITF was forced to announce that the Davis Cup tie between Pakistan and New Zealand, which had been slated to take place in Pakistan, would have to be moved to New Zealand due to the recent bombings in the Pakistani nation. The move is completely understandable but a hard blow to Pakistani tennis. Home ties can so often help spark tennis interest and growth in the host nation, not to mention bring some joy if victorious. A troubled nation like Pakistan could have used this boost.

The Fallout Continues – Things continue to unravel in Great Britain after they suffered one of their most humiliating Davis Cup losses in history. The All-Party Parliamentary Tennis Group, which includes members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, is staging an inquiry to further study the status of tennis in Great Britain at all levels of the game. Furthermore, John Lloyd is throwing in the towel, while coach Paul Annacone will no longer serve as the Davis Cup team coach. Bless whatever soul is brave enough to take over the helm of this rapidly sinking ship before they face Turkey later this year.

Latest Russian Maladies – In one of the more mind-boggling stories of the week, it was noted that Russian Nikolay Davydenko was forced to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open due to a broken wrist. The fact that he had to pull out of the tournament with such an injury was not the mind-boggling part…it was the fact that he’d played with the broken wrist, which had been misdiagnosed earlier in the year. The Russian could possibly be out for the entire clay court season. My fingers are crossed that he makes a speedy recovery, especially given how well he’s played the past six months.

Agassi’s Challenger Loss

Twelve years ago on November 16, 1997, Andre Agassi finished his first step towards his comeback from the depths of tennis – and as his new book OPEN revealed – the depths of his life. As excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), Agassi returned to the minor league Challenger circuit to try and resurrect his game, Andre Agassi was surprisingly defeated by No. 202-ranked Christian Vinck of Germany 6-2, 7-5 in final of the Luxor Challenger in Las Vegas, Nevada  “I have my goals long-term, and this week was assisting me to getting there,” said the former No. 1 ranked Agassi, whose ranking dropped to No. 141 after a dismal stretch of play over 18 months. “I can’t start questioning the big picture because of this. It’s ridiculous. That’s what the press’ job is. For me, it’s just to go one at a time.”

In OPEN, Agassi revealed that depression lead him to taking the drug crystal meth for much of the 1997 season.

To purchase OPEN, click HERE.

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.

Loathsome Secrets Of The Come Back Kid – Agassi’s Confessions Trembles The World Of Tennis

I have been reading up on the the Agassi hype revolving his drug abuse.  I found it slightly entertaining to say the least. Please understand this: I don’t agree with drug abuse , but I don’t condone it either. To each his own.

One of the articles I have read asked the question as to why Agassi used drugs. Well there is only answer to that: Because it makes you feel good. It makes you feel that you are  above the other people. It gives you a feeling of superiority, euphoria and it lifts a heavy weight from your shoulders. That’s why people use drugs on such a large scale.  Yes, I included alcohol too. Simply because alcohol is a drug. A hard drug too. Even though it’s more socially accepted.

Was it really wrong to have Andre come out and tell people that he has used crystal meth? And that he wants people to learn from his mistakes? Hm, now that’s a tough question.  I would say yes but I have to partially agree with Greg Couch from Tennis Fanhouse.  Agassi indeed fails the trust test. And he fails it miserably.  In no other interviews he shows any remorse of ever using crystal meth. Now how is he trying to make up for his past mistakes? What are we supposed to learn from his confessions? And that’s where the PR comes in: You want to know? Buy the book. They are hyping it up a lot.

One particular sentence from the article by Greg reminded me of The Godfather scene where Michael Corleone offers the Bishop 600 million dollars for shares in Immobiliare.  But it only took 5 million dollars for Agassi to confess his sins. He sold himself out. A guy who has more money than he can ever spend in this lifetime. Hey, he’s got money for two or three generations.  And he sold himself out. That’s shameful. Especially with the world in deep economical recession. There are lots of things that can be done with 5 million bucks! So many people that can be helped.

If he wanted to clear his soul, to confess to his sins, then why did he need be paid $5 million to do it. – Greg Couch

But it doesn’t end here.

Many players , like  for instance Rafael Nadal, who are currently playing on the tour are saying that Andre’s confessions are damaging the sport.

All it shows, in my view, is the weakness of the doping checks from back then. The vulnerabilities of the system that were fully exploited. If you can get away with a silly and simple excuse like “They spiked my drink” then it only shows how easy it is to get away with drug abuse. No double checking, no extra verification, just a simple letter and you are off the hook.

Agassi admitted today that he used crystal meth for about a year or so. Or so? He doesn’t remember clearly but how do you get away with that?  How many doping checks are there on an annual basis? Or did he simply write more letters to the ATP Tour saying that his assistant Slim kept changing glasses when Andre went to the bathroom or so? You know, just for fun.

Perhaps they just took a hair sample from his wig to see how much drugs there was left in his body. Who knows?

Question remains:  Did the ATP Tour cover this up? Were they affraid to lose one of their main attractions ?  If so then the ATP Tour as an organisation has also failed miserably and managed to singlehandedly castrate the integrity of the sport all by themselves.

The ATP however released a statement that they can’t take any responsibility for a doping case.  Only an independant tribunal has that kind of power.

Reading the confessions , I think it’s good that he did what he did.  It shows that he is just as vulnerable and susceptible as the next guy.  He is, after all a human being and not just a poster boy for philantropy and tennis.