Wednesday, October 28, 2009
WADA has questions for ATP
LONDON -- The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency wants tennis authorities to shed light on Andre Agassi's admission that he used a banned drug and escaped a suspension by blaming his positive test on a spiked drink.
WADA leader John Fahey said Wednesday he was disappointed by the revelations in Agassi's upcoming autobiography that he used crystal methamphetamine in 1997 and lied to ATP tour officials to avoid a ban.
Fahey said WADA -- which was founded in 1999 -- can't take any action against Agassi because of the agency's eight-year statute of limitations, and that it's "unlikely" the ATP will either.
"WADA would, however, expect the ATP, which administered its own anti-doping program at that time, to shed light on this allegation," Fahey said in a statement.
Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam champion, writes in his autobiography "Open" that he was introduced to crystal meth by his assistant "Slim" at a time when his form was fading and he was having doubts about his impending marriage to actress Brooke Shields.
In excerpts from the book published in The Times of London, Agassi said he was informed by the ATP later that year that he had tested positive for the drug and could face a three-month ban for use of a recreational substance. He said he sent a letter to the ATP tour claiming he accidentally drank from a soda spiked with meth by "Slim" and asking for leniency.
Agassi said the ATP reviewed the case, accepted his explanation and threw it out. The ATP said Wednesday that an independent panel makes the final decision on a doping violation.
"The ATP has always followed this rule, and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter," the statement said.
Agassi, who married tennis star Steffi Graf eight years ago and has two children, retired in 2006.
"We would hope that Andre Agassi might now see his way to be a role model and alert youth and tennis players to the dangers of drug use and doping," Fahey said.
Fahey said the case shows the importance of having a monitoring body such as WADA in place to review and follow up on positive cases.
"This ensures that no doping case is swept under the carpet," Fahey said. "The anti-doping system under the World Anti-Doping Code now ensures that a hearing by an independent tribunal occurs and excuses cannot be acted upon outside of such transparency."
Methamphetamine is classified as a stimulant under WADA's list of banned substances. Although tennis rules at the time might have warranted a three-month ban, WADA's current guidelines on methamphetamine provide for a sanction of up to two years if an athlete cannot prove mitigating circumstances.
WADA director general David Howman said there was no chance of retroactive sanctions against Agassi.
"We're stuck by our eight-year limitation rule, so we can't do anything," he told The Associated Press in Paris. "It will rest with ATP or perhaps ITF depending on how they've organized they're jurisdictional things. But 12 years back you start to say, 'For what, anti-doping?' It's a no-go because of the statute of limitations."
"I mean, at the end of the day, he's confessed," Howman added. "He obviously hasn't been able to sleep in bed straight and he's come out and made a confession and you have to applaud that to a degree."