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October 30, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

Shock, dismay over Agassi's crystal meth claims

EIGHT-TIME grand slam winner Andre Agassi left the tennis world in a state of shock on Wednesday when he admitted using the recreational drug crystal meth and lying to men's governing body the ATP to escape a ban.

In his autobiography "Open", the American candidly describes being introduced to the drug in 1997 and the moment when he was informed he had failed a drugs test.

International Tennis Federation President Francesco Ricci Bitti said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the revelations and World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey called on the ATP to "shed light" on the circumstances that allowed Agassi to escape punishment.

In his book, Agassi, now 39, spoke of the moment he took crystal meths, a highly-addictive amphetamine, for the first time when his career was in freefall. He was helped by his drug-user assistant, known as Slim.

"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 crossed," he said.

Agassi burst on to the scene in the late 1980s with a maverick streak, long hair and a wacky dress sense.

He won Wimbledon in 1992, the US Open in 1994 and the Australian Open in 1995.

However, wrist injuries and a loss of form sent his career on to the rocks in 1997 and his world ranking tumbled to 122. A year later he began a new training regime that sparked an incredible turnaround. He shot back up the rankings and in 1999 completed a career grand slam at the French Open.

Agassi, now married to former women's number one Steffi Graf with whom he has two children, ended 1999 atop the rankings after winning the US Open again. He won three more Australian Open titles before a tearful retirement in 2006.

However, had tennis's doping program been under the WADA code at the time there is little doubt his cover-up of his drug- taking would have failed and his career could have been ruined.

"This is a very serious statement which, if reported accurately, is one that is disappointing coming from a role model such as Andre Agassi," Fahey said.


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