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Andre Agassi admits taking drugs and lying to ATP

Public HealthOct 28, 09

Eight times grand slam winner Andre Agassi has admitted using the recreational drug crystal meth and lying to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to escape a ban.

In his forthcoming book, which is being serialized in The Times, the American candidly describes being introduced to the drug in 1997 by his assistant and the moment later that year when he was informed he had failed a drug test.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francesco Ricci Bitti said he was “surprised and disappointed” by Agassi’s revelations that have stunned tennis.

In the extracts in The Times, Agassi, now 39, spoke of the moment he took crystal meths, a highly-addictive amphetamine, for the first time when his career was in free-fall. 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 just crossed,” said Agassi.

“There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful—and I’ve never felt such energy.”


Agassi, a great rival to compatriot Pete Sampras, shook up tennis when he burst on to the scene in the late 1980s, with his rebellious streak, long hair and wacky dress sense appealing to a new generation of fans.

He won Wimbledon in 1992 before claiming the U.S. 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 after playing just a handful of matches that year his world ranking tumbled to 122.

A year later he began a new training regime that sparked an incredible turnaround in his form. After a spell on the second-tier Challenger circuit he shot back up the rankings and in 1999 completed a career grand slam at the French Open.

He ended 1999 as world number one after winning the U.S. Open for a second time and went on to win three more Australian Open titles before a tearful retirement in 2006.

Had Agassi’s drug taking been made public his career could have been ruined—a scenario he recalls that led him to make up a story to explain his failed drugs test.

In the newspaper serialization of his book, Agassi recounts the moment in 1997 when he received a phone call from a doctor working for the ATP who informed him that he had failed a drugs test for a Class 2 recreational drug.

“My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I’ve achieved, whatever I’ve worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It’s filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth,” Agassi said.


He described how he concocted a story that he had accidentally drunk a soda spiked with crystal meth belonging to his drug-user assistant Slim.

“I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it,” Agassi recalled saying.

No action was taken by the ATP against Agassi at the time but his admission that he took drugs will cast a shadow over a player widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time.

Agassi said he was not worried about the impact of his confessions on his fans.

“I was worried for a moment, but not for long,” he was quoted as saying. “I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story.”

Agassi said he was not worried about the impact of his confessions on his fans.

Bitti launched a strong defense of the governing body’s tough stand against drugs.

“The ITF is surprised and disappointed by the remarks made by Andre Agassi in his biography admitting substance abuse in 1997,” he said in a statement.

“Such comments in no way reflect the fact that the Tennis Anti-Doping Program is currently regarded as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive anti-doping programs in sport.

“The events in question occurred before the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was founded in 1999 and during the formative years of anti-doping in tennis when the program was managed by individual governing bodies.”

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