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Saturday, October 31, 2009
Gilbert: I knew nothing of drug use

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Andre Agassi's former coach says the first time he learned Agassi had used crystal meth was when he read an early draft of Agassi's autobiography last year, The New York Times reports.

Brad Gilbert, Agassi's coach for nearly a decade, said he had no idea that Agassi was using the drug in 1997, or that he failed a drug test and lied his way out of a suspension. "Maybe it was me being naive, but I had no clue," Gilbert said, according to The Times.

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"I did a really good job of sticking to the tennis court," Gilbert said, according to the report. "If Andre asked for something outside it, I would give it. I just wouldn't ask him about it or volunteer something I wouldn't have knowledge about. Because we hung out a ton, but that doesn't mean you ask things that are personal."

In his upcoming autobiography, "Open," Agassi says he used crystal meth in 1997, failed a drug test and escaped suspension by lying to the ATP, saying he "unwittingly" took the substance by consuming an assistant's spiked drink. Excerpts from the book, which comes out Nov. 9, are being published this week in the Times of London, as well as Sports Illustrated and People magazines.

Agassi has drawn criticism from some quarters, notably women's tennis great Martina Navratilova, for lying about his drug use at the time. But Gilbert, who coached Agassi from 1994 to 2002, said he does not believe Agassi's achievements after 1997 should be seen as tainted, according to The Times.

"That was a small offense right? He would have been suspended for what, three months?" Gilbert said, according to the report. "The rest of 1997, he basically played a couple of challengers. It would have been a big thing, but it would still have been a blip on the radar."

Gilbert also said he had no clue before reading the book that Agassi secretly hated tennis, in large part due to his overbearing, vindictive father, according to the report.

"There's another thing I had no clue about," Gilbert said, according to The Times. "I think he's a lot more at peace with it now. Sometimes when you're in the storm, it's harder and maybe when it's over, then you can look back on it. I think he's in a better place now, because he's had some tough childhood memories. Sometimes things like that you kind of suppress them."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.