In his new book, “Open”, Andre Agassi reveals quite a few personal things. At different points in the book he states that he hated tennis, that his famous long hair was actually fake, and that he used the drug crystal meth throughout much of 1997. He even failed a drug test, but lied to ATP officials saying he ingested the drug on accident and wasn’t suspended. Once this news broke, there was a little backlash from some current players who faced Agassi during his career. One player, former #1 player Marat Safin, went as far as to say that Agassi should forfeit his tournament titles and return his winnings to the ATP.
I’m not a huge tennis fan; I enjoy watching the Majors and I generally just pull for the Americans. Hearing about Agassi’s struggles hasn’t changed my opinion of him at all.
The two current best players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have both come out with criticisms of Agassi in the past few days. Nadal was quoted after an awards ceremony as saying,
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.
Later Federer left these remarks after a sponsors meeting in Switzerland:
It was a shock when I heard the news. I am disappointed and I hope there are no more such cases in future…. our sport must stay clean.
Yes, I do understand their position. If people assume that a player with the stature of Andre Agassi can be exempt from the rules, then people will start thinking that current #1 players are on all sorts of drugs.
Now, I don’t know a whole lot about drugs and cheaters and performance enhancers, but does anyone really think that crystal meth really helps someone’s performance on the tennis court? Agassi’s World Ranking fell from #1 in 1995 to #141 in November of 1997. I’d say the only person he was cheating was himself.
Really, the only people he’s making look foolish are the ATP officials who let him off the hook. Maybe they could take some good from this and it will cause stricter testing procedures within the game a la Jose Conseco with baseball. Plus, as I said before, crystal meth isn’t what I would term a performance enhancer.
I tend to side more with Andy Roddick when he 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 [the] better
If it wasn’t for Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, I would have never watched a tennis match in the 1990s. In fact, if it had been just Sampras or just Agassi on his own, I still wouldn’t have watched a tennis match. They collectively bridged the gap between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl to Federer and Nadal. Without one or the other, tennis would have taken a dive.
I’m certainly not condoning letting players take illegal drugs while they play. I just think that crucifying him over a decade later after he quit seems a bit harsh. My perception of Andre Agassi hasn’t changed at all.