Andre Agassi Backlash: Undeserved

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2009


Upon Agassi's recent admission that he had used Chrystal Meth in the mid 1990's, he has received lots of heat from current and former players.

Most recently, Marat Safin is quoted today by the AP as saying that Andre should "give his titles, his money and his Grand Slam titles back." "If he is as fair play as he says he is, he has to go to the end," Safin said. "You know, the ATP has a bank account and he can give the money back if he wants." He goes on to say "Me, I don't need money. The question is: Why did he do this? What is done is done. Does he hope to sell more books? It's absolutely stupid."

Safin does not deserve much credibility in any of this given his place in tennis history. He should probably work on his attitude on the court and his emotional outbursts which have included, by his estimation, 300 broken racquets.

Martina Navratilova has compared Agassi to Roger Clemens, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have both stated their displeasure with Agassi coming out with this news and saying "We need to keep our sport clean."

With that said, I think all of this is pretty undeserved. Upon taking the drug, he had fallen to 141 in the rankings in November of 1997, which is right around the time he said he was using Chrystal Meth.

Comparing him to Roger Clemens is completely uncalled for. Roger (allegedly) used Performance Enhancing Drugs in order to enhance his performance on the field. He used it to get an edge, which lead to more Cy Young Awards and even a World Series Championship that had eluded him for so many years.

Andre Agassi claims he had hit a wall and hated the sport of Tennis. He was not trying to get an edge. It seems he had been trying to end what he had built (I have not yet read the book but speaking from what I have read and heard Andre Agassi say himself). Chrystal Meth is anything but a Performance Enhancing drug so his championships post 1997 are a direct result of him getting off the drug and getting back to his hard work ethic.

Agassi is guilty of one thing, and that is lying to the ATP about his use. He claimed it was consumed in an accidental manner, when now we know he had chosen to do the drug for almost a year (1996/1997 per his 60 Minutes interview).

As for Federer and Nadal, here are some of their quotes:

Nadal: "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."

Federer: "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."

Nadal can claim he believes his sport is clean, and Federer may reiterate that the sport needs to stay clean, but they are not really on the same page as Agassi here. What they want is to make sure there are no PED's in their sport, which as far as we know, there are not. However the recreational drug use, which is what Agassi was guilty of, is most likely pretty wide spread in a sport that includes many young professionals, under the age of 25 who are suddenly rolling in money and traveling the world.

What we should do is look at Agassi's story as one of warning to young players today of what can happen with excessive, recreational drug use; where your career may end up. It can also show the players who may be suffering from some of the issues Agassi suffered from in 1997, that with hard work, they can get out of their rut and still get back to the top, as Andre did.

Agassi has come out and admit his wrong doings, which he did not have to do. He was not using a drug that enhanced his performance and got him to being number 1 in the world, and he has written a book, which many athletes do during their post career lives, which can serve as a warning and lesson to current athletes. He can hardly be accused of doing this for the money, given his career earnings, endorsements and his marriage to Stephie Graf. As of 2004, according to IMDB, he was estimated to have a net worth of $162 Million. I do not think money was the driving factor for his admission.

Let's also not forget that Agassi is now who is a man who is generally regarded as the most charitable athlete of our time, along with Lance Armstrong.

On a lighter note, the bigger story here is Andre was wearing a hair piece!!! That seems to be the most shocking story to come out of this book.