Agassi's book excerpts create a buzz in tennis world

Oct 30 2009 - 6:11pm

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(KNOPF/The Associated Press) Cover image of Agassi's book
(KNOPF/The Associated Press) Cover image of Agassi's book

Andre Agassi admits in his forthcoming autobiography that he used crystal meth in 1997 when his life and career were spiraling out of control. The revelation, one of many in the brutally honest memoir, will bother tennis officials but most certainly spike sales of the book, aptly named Open. It hits shelves Nov. 9.

In wide-ranging excerpts published by The Times of London, Agassi reveals details of his drug use and also confesses that he lied to tennis officials when he tested positive, telling them he inadvertently ingested the drug in a spiked drink, to avoid a suspension and a stain on his reputation. The ATP and an independent panel bought his story, and it never became public until now.

Agassi writes that he first tried the drug when his assistant, whom he identifies only as "Slim," offered it to him in 1997. Agassi, who won eight Grand Slam championships in his career, had plummeted from No. 1 to No. 141 in the rankings, and he was feeling anxiety about his marriage to Brooke Shields.

IN HIS WORDS

He wrote: "Slim is stressed too . . . He says, You want to get high with me? On what? Gack. What the hell's gack? Crystal meth. Why do they call it gack? Because that's the sound you make when you're high. . . . Make you feel like Superman, dude.

"As if they're coming out of someone else's mouth, I hear these words: You know what? Yeah. Let's get high. Slim dumps a small pile of powder on the coffee table. He cuts it, snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I've just crossed.

"There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I've never felt so alive, so hopeful, and I've never felt such energy. I'm seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds."

Agassi was walking through La Guardia Airport in New York when he got the call from an ATP doctor informing him of the positive drug test.

"There is doom in his voice, as if he's going to tell me I'm dying," Agassi writes. "He reminds me that tennis has three classes of drug violation. Performance-enhancing drugs. .. . would constitute a Class 1, he says, which would carry a suspension of two years. However, he adds, crystal meth would seem to be a clear case of Class 2. Recreational drugs. That would mean a three-month suspension.

"My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I've achieved, whatever I've worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It's filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.

"I say Slim, whom I've since fired, is a known drug user, and that he often spikes his sodas with meth, which is true. Then I come to the central lie of the letter. I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim's spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.

"I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it. The ATP reviewed the case and threw it out."

ITF ANSWERS

International Tennis Federation President Francesco Ricci Bitti said in a statement: "The ITF is surprised and disappointed by the remarks made by Andre Agassi in his biography admitting substance abuse in 1997. Such comments in no way reflect the fact that the Tennis Anti-Doping Program is currently regarded as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive anti-doping programs in sport. The events in question occurred before the World Anti-Doping Agency was founded in 1999.

"The ITF, Grand Slams, ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour are now unified in their efforts to keep tennis free of drug use, and this should not be overshadowed by an incident that took place over 12 years ago. The statements by Mr. Agassi do, however, provide confirmation that a tough Anti-Doping Program is needed."

In a posting on People's Web site, Agassi responded to a question about how he felt fans would react to his admissions of drug use. He wrote that he "was worried for a moment, but not for long. I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story."

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