Thursday, 29 October 2009

Agassi is still a legend

Andre Agassi has admitted to using Crystal Meth and then concealing its use from tennis officials. Whilst many may be shocked by this overly hyped revelation, I am not. You just have to take a look at a picture of Andre Agassi in his youth to realise that he may have experimented with something other than protein shakes and tic tacs.

Its not as though Agassi took the drug to enhance his performance. In a moment of weakness he turned to a drug that he knew would lift him out of the state of depression he found himself in. To suggest that this confession of drug abuse could destroy Agassi's reputation as an all time tennis great is frankly stupid. Most media outlets have been largely philosophical about Agassi's comments apart that is from the BBC who seem hell bent on blowing things out of proportion. Jonathan Overend, who I'm unsure has ever picked up a racket in anger, has said that Agassi may well have "tarnished his reputation". So maybe if Agassi had gone on the mother of all drinking binges and ended up in a ditch his reputation would still be intact, as that would have been legal.

I of all people have not been a great fan of Agassi's 'butter wouldn't melt' public persona helped by his willing wife Steffi Graf. However after this admittance of weakness he has actually gone up in my estimations. Agassi was and always will be a sporting legend for the way he played the game and for a comeback that rivaled any other in the world of sport.

Of course Overend then goes on to needle at the ATP claiming that they are too lenient on drugs. On this issue its clear that Tennis is a little behind other sports when it comes to dealing with drug cheats. There is the case of Richard Gasquet who tested positive for cocaine but said he got it in his system after kissing a girl. There is also the case of 7 mystery players who tested positive for Nandrolone in 2003 but got off on a technicality. The later story is quite different from Agassi's though. Nandrolone is a substance taken for the sole purpose of better muscle regeneration. Crystal Meth is taken by desperate individuals trying to escape reality.

What the ATP did was in the best interest of its player. What he needed was support and understanding. What he didn't need was for his name to be dragged through the dirt by journalists like Overend who like nothing more than a good witch hunt.

People are wrong if they think tennis has been damaged by this whole episode. I believe it will only act to show youngsters that the stars they idolise are still only human and that, like the rest of us, they can have moments of weakness.

The BBC failed to ever break open the story that was waiting to be found in the form of the 'Nandrolone 7' instead they have given up and found it easier to use the poor example of Agassi's misdemeanor to highlight Tennis's drug problem. Maybe Mr Overend could go away and actually be a journalist and find us a story worth reading rather than just passing comment on a serialised book.

Not everyone has fallen into the trap of attacking the bold headed tennis wonder. The Telegraph in a moment of lightheartedness states that this may well be the first sporting autobiography worth reading in ages. And at the end of the day that is what the whole point of this rant is; Agassi courted controversy throughout his career. He was the first real rebel rock and roll tennis player. This is why tennis fans the world over loved him. He is a character who has stories to tell and emotions to share. I liked that, it made tennis that bit more interesting and allowed fans to feel better connected to the game. The fact he took Crystal Meth doesn't really change that.

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