Commentary

Questions surround Wayne Odesnik

Updated: June 27, 2013, 2:36 PM ET
By Shaun Assael | ESPN.com

There's a world in tennis that we rarely hear about. It's the world of anonymous tournaments in places far from Wimbledon, where humorless men sit in the stands of nondescript stadiums, betting on matches with open laptops. It's a world trolled by European betting companies that use high-powered computers to track suspicious activity and by a small cadre of tennis cops who try to pound the pavement.

[+] EnlargeWayne Odesnik
Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesFor the second consecutive year, Wayne Odesnik's biggest impact at Wimbledon was a series of questions about tennis' underbelly.

Few know this world as well as Wayne Odesnik, the 27-year-old American whose best Grand Slam result is a third-round finish in the French Open in 2008. Odesnik had the kind of low-ranked anonymity that comes in handy if you want to sneak around unnoticed, and according to a story that is making the rounds in Europe this week, he stands at the center of a behind-the-scenes investigation into match fixing that could reveal some uncomfortable truths about the sport.

One of the biggest catches in the probe is an Austrian named Daniel Kollerer, who ended his career ranked 374th. At a closed-door trial before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2011, Odesnik reportedly testified that Kollerer told him that he could help fix matches.

This testimony -- revealed Monday by London Daily Mail tennis writer Nick Harris on a website he runs called sportingintelligence.com -- confirms what many have suspected about Odesnik since he was caught trying to bring human growth hormone into Brisbane before the 2010 Australian Open. After pleading guilty to a criminal charge, the journeyman struck a cooperation deal with tennis authorities that cut his two-year ban to effectively nine months.

Since then, Odesnik has been trying to outrun rumors that he's a snitch. At Wimbledon a year ago, he told reporters that "a hundred percent [I'd] never say anything bad about a player" or act like "a spy."

Yet apparently, Odesnik was doing just that. In another U.K. hearing, Harris reported, he was asked about his cooperation and replied that he'd given "information on a few other players. ... [Kollerer] was a small part of it."

What's interesting about all this is how ineffective Odesnik has turned out to be as an informant. Kollerer was banned on the basis of three match-fixing charges. A fourth charge that hinged on Odesnik's testimony was dismissed. According to the story by Harris, who writes about money and corruption in sports, the CAS hearing panel apparently thought he was unbelievable.

This shouldn't be a surprise; snitches tend to be unsavory people who do poorly on the witness stand.

The broader issue for tennis is whether Odesnik has been worth the high-profile cooperation deal he received. Andy Murray is among those who've blasted the sport's leaders for not being tough enough on Odesnik, saying last year, "You want to make sure that people who are fined and suspended aren't let off because they are telling on other players."

Top officials obviously thought Odesnik had a lot to offer. But increasingly, it's looking like the gumshoes at their Tennis Integrity Unit got played. In the two years since Kollerer was banned, they've spent their time going after players who have to thumb rides to the airport.

The TIU's most recent match-fixing cases involved a 789th-ranked Russian and a 23-year-old Dutchman listed at No. 1,158.

The biggest miscalculation, however, might turn out to be failing so far to dig into Odesnik's possible involvement with the South Florida Biogenesis clinic.

Before he played his first-round match at Wimbledon this week, Odesnik denied having anything to do with the anti-aging clinic's beleaguered owner, Tony Bosch. The Miami New Times had published images of documents that listed "Wayne Odesnik" when it broke the Biogenesis story earlier this year. As he flatly told reporters, "I don't have any connection. Any other questions you can ask my lawyer." 

But a source close to the Florida state government investigation of Bosch told ESPN.com that ex-employees of Biogenesis have positively linked Odesnik to a broader group of athletes who received performance-enhancing drugs and masking agents.

"For him to say what he said is nonsense," this source said.

Odesnik was spared from further questions by the media when he lost his first-round match to Chinese player Jimmy Wang on Tuesday.

But after the most recent disclosures, a lot of players are going to have plenty of questions of their own.

• Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine
• Author of "Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour"; the New York Times best-selling "Sex, Lies and Headlocks"; and "Steroid Nation"

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