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Sports Then and Now

The Tennis World Speaks Out About Andre Agassi’s Book; How Should He Respond?

Posted on November 06, 2009 by Rob York
Some people tend to forget that Andre Agassi hasn't always been the prim and proper "pitchman" that we have become accustomed to over the last few years.

Some people tend to forget that Andre Agassi hasn't always been the prim and proper "pitchman" that we have become accustomed to over the last few years.

Even though it has yet to hit bookstores, Andre Agassi’s new book “Open” has some revelations that are already causing some controversy. Most notably among them is his admission to using crystal meth during his career.

In his first entry for Sports Then and Now, noted tennis writer Rob York looks at the reaction some notables within the tennis world have had to the news along with perhaps how Agassi should respond to each comment.

What Martina Navratilova said:

“Shocking. Not as much shock that he did it as shock he lied about it and didn’t own up to it. He’s up there with Roger Clemens, as far as I’m concerned. He owned up to it, but it doesn’t help now.”

“Andre lied and got away with it. You can’t correct that now. Do you take away a title he wouldn’t have won if he had been suspended? He beat some people when he should have been suspended.”

How Agassi should respond:

Apparently when you when enough majors you feel you have the right to pass judgment on anyone who has won less. Sadly, Martina, your memory isn’t as good as your Grand Slam record: I didn’t win any titles while I was using meth, and only won a total of 12 matches in 13 tour events.

But I have to credit you for your analogies. The Clemens comparison is really, really original and not knee-jerk at all. Really. It’s appropriate, too, as long as you forget the fact that Clemens is said to have taken a drug that actually helps performance, as opposed to one that ravages people physically. And the fact that Clemens never admitted to using it. And the fact that Clemens hasn’t done a fraction of the things off-court that I have to help his sport.

Other than those things, though, it’s right on.

What Rafael Nadal said:

“To me it seems terrible. 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.”

How Agassi should respond:

Yeah, I probably should have been punished, but that’s on the ATP and not me. In the long run, what I’ve said here will help the sport because I’ve revealed the laxity and the double-standard that once existed in the game’s policing of substance abuse.

I understand that in your position, Rafa; you want the game you love to be a clean one. Your reaction, though, is similar to a press secretary for an embattled politician who’s blaming the media for reporting where his boss does his fund-raising.

What Roger Federer said:

“It was a shock when I heard the news.” Federer said at a sponsors meeting at Kilchberg near Zurich. “I am disappointed and I hope there are no more such cases in future. … Our sport must stay clean.”

How Agassi should respond:

Though similar to Rafa’s statement at first glance, there’s not much that’s judgmental or puritanical here. Frankly, there’s nothing for me to disagree with; as a former meth user, I feel as strongly as anyone that there shouldn’t be any cases in which players use it, much less get away with it.

What Andy Roddick said:

“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 better. To be fair, when Andre wrote the reported letter, he was well outside the top 100 and widely viewed as on the way out.”

How Agassi should respond:

Even if he isn’t the most cerebral guy on tour, he’s definitely one of the wisest.

What Andy Murray said:

“I loved Andre, met him numerous times, and he was unbelievably nice to me. I practised with him a lot. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants, and I wish him the best.”

How Agassi should respond:

Andy, you’re not just really thoughtful on the court.

What Boris Becker said:

“He is only doing harm to tennis. I am asking myself ‘why is he making this confession?’

Is Boris Becker really the best person to speak out about Andre Agassi's issues?

Is Boris Becker really the best person to speak out about Andre Agassi's issues?

“You could forget about it if he had had too many beers or smoked a joint. But we are talking about one of the worst drugs: crystal meth is a synthetic stimulant and one of the most dangerous drugs.

“I feel disappointed as an athlete. He has won many Grand Slams, some of them against me. If he won those because he was on speed it’s simply unfair,”

How Agassi should respond:

Actually, Boris, all the news reports were pretty clear that I only took meth for a year, and when you look at that year it obviously didn’t help my success. And while you’re not clear why I’m making this confession now, it pretty clear you haven’t given it much thought. I’d encourage you to do so, but wouldn’t want to give you a migraine.

Where does a guy who father’s a child out of wedlock in broom closet stairwell gets the ‘nads to condemn another guy’s personal life, anyway?

What John Inverdale said:

“You say it wasn’t easy being so “candid” and “brutally honest.” It will hopefully be extremely easy for all of us to leave your book where it belongs. Lying unwanted on the shelf.”

How Agassi should respond:

John Inver-who?

Editor’s Note: Sports Then and Now has been invited by the book’s publisher to read and provide a review of “Open”. Look for the review next week.

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