October 28th, 2009
06:21 PM ET

Agassi, the latest to shatter the sport illusion

What was Andre Agassi thinking? Just three years ago he retires as a sporting legend, one of the greatest tennis players of all time and a role model for the next generation of professionals.

Andre Agassi's legacy could be severely tarnished following his recent drug-taking revelations.
Andre Agassi's legacy could be severely tarnished following his recent drug-taking revelations.

He’s married to sexy Steffi Graf and they have two children – a boy and a girl. They have no financial worries and, to many of us, it seems like the perfect lifestyle.

So why confess that, twelve years ago, you regularly snorted an illegal drug and then lied to the tennis authorities about it?

Agassi made it clear that he was happy for the world to hear the whole story after an exhibition match in Macau this weekend, but I think he’ll be less excited about the reaction from tennis fans and the wider public.

Glancing through internet forums and social networking sites it is clear that genuine shock has been created by the news.

It’s significant the admission has come in Agassi’s autobiography, released in time for the lucrative Christmas market. It is hard to claim that you are simply coming clean while charging fans to read that truth.

The excerpt was published in a British newspaper alongside stories about how tough Agassi’s father had been on him. However, the American may find sympathy hard to come by.

He writes that he took crystal meth because he was “in a bad way”. There he was, sitting in his luxurious Las Vegas house, a famous and wealthy sportsman, less than a year after winning Olympic gold and shortly before marrying beautiful actress Brooke Shields. Yeah, tough life.

Agassi is currently an ambassador for luxury watchmaker Longines and the company has told CNN they will stick by him. They admire his honesty and say we all make mistakes.

While that is true, Agassi’s lapse wasn’t a one-off. He continued taking the drug for many months and then lied to the ATP when he tested positive. He told the tour that he had accidentally ingested the narcotic after drinking from a spiked drink belonging to his assistant.

With hindsight, although the ATP followed the correct procedure of investigation concerning the incident, how can we have faith in a system that Agassi managed to circumvent with such ease? Possibly, like the rest of Agassi’s admirers – until now – they couldn’t believe such a respected player would make such a big mistake.

No doubt the ATP will be watching the reaction to Agassi’s revelations carefully. While we have all been jaded by the quantity of drugs in sport stories this one may yet gain some momentum.

If Agassi had admitted his drug use at the time he was facing a three month ban. Instead, he played on. Unsuccessfully. He slumped to his worst ever ranking of 141 in the world – but he still won matches and had an impact on fellow players’ careers while receiving artificial and illegal stimulation.

Should Agassi repay prize money? Or compensate tournament sponsors?

However, it is equally likely the controversy will quickly die down. If that happens it would just be another step along the road to Apathy City – where we stop caring whether or not our sporting heroes are on the straight and narrow.

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Filed under:  Tennis
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Joseph Rida

    I support Agassi for confessing, it is about him not about what others think of him. Everytime people call him a legend, his concisious will tell him you do not deserve it, you are a cheat and liar, they do not know about you. But once he confesses, he will heal, and that is what is important for him and his family.
    So leave him alone, if you have never sinned, be the first to throw the first stone.

    October 28, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  2. Om

    I am dissaointed. Being a big fan of both Andre and Steffi, this revelation is a stab on the back of millions of sports fans and sports authorities.

    Not a nice man after all!

    October 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  3. oscar

    Oh, for heavens sake. Please spare us from your sanctimonious rantings. Show me someone who's never made a mistake in their life or tried something they shouldn't and I'll show you a very boring person. I'm not saying Andre's drug use was smart, but if you lined up every public figure who'd ever succumbed to a vice you'd have a line stretching from Wimbledon to Queens Club. So he dabbled in a few drugs. So what? It didn't enhance his performance any did it, he dropped to 141 in the world before coming to his senses. Look, he was down, he went for the quick fix, he realized his mistake, and stopped, end of story. As for his "confession"? Well that's to be applauded. After all, who needs another vanilla tell nothing autobiography for Christmas?

    October 28, 2009 at 9:42 pm | Reply
  4. Scott

    Alex Thomas paints a dark portrait of a competitor who is now coming clean for a lapse in judgement that occurred over a decade ago: cummon man, give the guy a break! Save your indignation for things that you can do something about – like inadequate current anti-doping rules, rather than lapses from a prior millenium! Coodos to Agassi for having the bravery to shed light on this dark secret in his past.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  5. David Bell

    I have to say, Andre Agassi is a wonderful man, and a wonderful human being!! I am not a real fan of tennis, although, I occasionally look at several players' matches, Agassi's being one of the rare times! People are the such hipocrits, to point fingers, and say he sucks for being what we all are....human!!Who knows what he was going through at that time?What was going on in his life, we have no idea!!!He is a world figure, ambassador, and, from what I have seen, a wonderful human being, not only to people in Las Vegas, but worldwide!!! How dare people point fingers and throw stones, when we all have issues and tribulations to deal with!

    Longines, I admire and respect you, as a company for supporting a great human, not just an investment! Andre, keep your head high, keep doing your thing, brother!God loves you, and so do I!We all make our mistakes, and those that throw stones and point fingers need to look in the mirror, and wake up!!! I will stand by you as my brother, even though, i don't particularly care about tennis!! I'm a golfer!!!

    Much love and peace to you and your family!!!

    David Bell

    October 28, 2009 at 10:53 pm | Reply
  6. who cares

    This is something that happened 12, 13 years ago? Who cares. No one is perfect. It's not something that went on for years. He didn't hurt anyone. Who cares.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  7. Steven Jones

    Everyone makes mistakes. I think the entire world would be surprised at the number of artists and athletes who we hold dear that have used hard drugs. It is a courageous act for Agassi to come forth and be honest with his fans and the tennis community. I think it is idiotic to assume that wealth, success and a beautiful wife equate happiness. With the good, I am sure that there are many emotional complications that come with being famous and in the public eye that the average person does not experience.

    October 28, 2009 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  8. Rachel Burnham

    Coming clean about someones addiction to any drug is not easy, but for anyone to move out of it completely it's very important to not be in denial about the fact that you used ,and weren't able to come clean about it earlier. The most important thing is acceptance of the facts which makes the ability to move on much easier.
    It's also true that he could have gone on without ever coming clean about it and no one but himself would have been any wiser, so it must have been important to him to tell the truth. It really doesn't matter what anyone thinks about it ,it's a brave act to purge ones self of mistakes that have been made ( and we all make them) whatever they may be.
    It's time that we take our athletes of the pedestals that we are guilty of putting them on and realize that while they may be gifted in many ways they are still humans that make mistakes like the rest of us

    October 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  9. Bob

    Agassi is easily the most popular and respected tennis player of all time, not only because of his game and personality, but because he managed to transform his image and leave a lasting positive impression on the sport. The drug story is an essential part of the transformation and Agassi was right to write about it. There is no legislation of any kind in tennis or sports that can punish Agassi retroactively for this.
    Additionally, the article does no justice to detailing the pressures of being the "golden boy" of tennis, what expectations Agassi must have constantly been facing. A lesser, more normal man would never have recovered from this downfall the way Agassi did, with the biggest rankings point jump in a year or so of all time, I believe. That is the real story here.
    Also his "doping" wasn't performance enhancing by any standard, in fact limited his tennis ability. "Artificial and illegal stimulation" makes no sense to me, all the evidence (rankings drop) doesn't point to stimulation of any kind, rather the opposite. And the idea of compensating sponsors or returning what little prize money he received is ludicrous. Agassi was still the one who sold out stadiums, so it couldn't have impacted the sponsors negatively at the time. He could perhaps be sued for breach of contract if Nike had a no-drugs clause in his contract back then, but it seems his sponsors are sticking by him.
    And comparing the doping standards of tennis 12 years ago serves no purpose in illuminating its condition today, where Gasquet's promising career was almost derailed because of minute traces of cocaine a recreational drug, and Hingis' career was ended because of it as well.
    To conclude, for me Agassi is a greater person for overcoming his drug problem on his way to becoming the standard for the ultimate sportsman, philanthropist, etc. while still proving that he is human, which is an example to many, and now, to those who have drug problems and are looking for a clean future as well.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Reply
  10. bpaquette

    I don't know what world you live in, but I live in a world where humans are not gods and nobody is perfect. The pro athlete drug use issue is far mirkier than this single example. Performance enhancing drugs are one thing, obviously this did not enhance his performance. I forgive and choose to see Andre for the man he is today, a generous philanthropist for children.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  11. terri meyer

    successful entertainers - athletes, pop stars, movie stars, - share a common lifestyle : they're famous for what they do and then have to live up to the god-like image the press and the publc create and crave.
    We, the public and press, expect them to be heros, our role models.
    while the average joe may take drugs to feel great, the entertainers may do it o just feel like the average joe again - and to let go of the pressures of being a god. I'm not condoning it, just seems to be a pattern here. so , yea, no great surprise.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  12. andrew z

    Oh my god, out of all the drugs, crystal meth. To believe such a succesfull sportsman did that kinda thing is shocking.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  13. Joshua from Sydney

    LEAVE HIME ALONE. No one is perfect and there is value for him to make an impact on yongsters finding it hard to give up drugs but if they know great people have been there and come back it could help them.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:08 am | Reply
  14. Thomas George

    Agassi has always been my tennis hero, much as I admire his courage to speak this truth, I chastise him for not admitting to it in the first instance.
    What he did was wrong, he led the entire world of tennis on!

    October 29, 2009 at 12:12 am | Reply
  15. hasha

    Well, as long as it's not a performance-enhancement drug, I don't care at all. All I know is crystal-meth deteriorates performance, not enhance it. Everybody makes mistakes.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:21 am | Reply
  16. Nate

    You guys stoop to new grounds every article.

    This wasn't a drug that helped Agassi compete, this wasn't "Performance Enhancing." You ramble on about how easy and great a life Agassi had, easy for you to say, you aren't in his shoes.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:23 am | Reply
  17. kount kookula

    if i could say anything to andre agassi, it would be, "good on you, mate." he will remain a role model for his ongoing efforts to be an upstanding human being. andre genuinely puts his money where his mouth is, and understands right from wrong. my guess is that he felt that he had to admit this fact so he wouldn't feel hypocritical any longer. this is just part of a self-reflective process of self-evolution. andre was a champion tennis player and is now an even better person.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:33 am | Reply
  18. Enrique Prado

    This is a judgmental article that completely misses the greater accompishments of this tennis legend. Agassi's life is a story of redemption: Blessed with incredible talent he tasted fame and glory at an early age. He was too inmature to handle his new glamorous life and predictably made some serious mistakes that cost him his first marriage and almost cost him his carreer. At the point where most mortals would simply give up and live a life of failure and bondage to bad habits, he found the grace to change and persevere. Whatever kind of man he was when he took those drugs you can be sure he is no longer . His openess to admit his past mistakes and risk his good name is evidence to his new character. To me he remains "Andre the great" and not "Andre the fallen star", not only for what he accomplished in the tennis court but mostly for what he did and still does for his community and fellow man. Next time, before you pass judgment on someone look at their fruit. A tree is known by its fruit.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:40 am | Reply
  19. matt B

    Sports heroes who have a screw up in personal life are...human. Yes, it was wrong to be taking drugs, but how many young people under extreme pressure fall into this at least once in their lives? I think the better story is what this man became as he matured and the achievements he has made on and off the court. We don't put artists or writers or actors under this kind of scrutiny; and the drugs were, while illegal and in poor judgement, not performance enhancing. In fact, amphetimines usually deteriorate from one's personal health and fitness level, certainly over time.

    The greater failure is when society acts sanctimonious about these events. Is it me, or are the biggest finger pointers the one's who usually have their own dirty laundry to sort?

    Agassi is a hero to millions of fans, a role model to all the kids he's helped in his charities and a pretty enterprising businessman, I would be lucky to call him a friend if I had the chance. He would be the first to feel disappointed in himself for that activity; the book simply reveals a greater profile of the athlete, warts and all.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:51 am | Reply
  20. S.Krishnan

    Nothing is perfect.....Agassi was a great player and this admission does'nt take wonderful tennis he played over years and thrilled tennis fans all over the world.......it's better admit the flaw....to enable ATP and other sports management world over, tighten the drug checks further and improve.......

    He was caught but lied and got away......may be at that point ATP should have gone in to further details and done more.....

    Good that he came clean after long......it requires lot's of courage......

    October 29, 2009 at 1:10 am | Reply
  21. Ben

    Agasi made mistakes, everyone does, what is this godification of athletes about? They're human beings. It's good he came clean if that's what he wanted to do. Honestly that doesn't take away from his achievements, it's not like he won the Tour de France on steroids. I admire his honesty and empathize with people from all walks of live. I don't agree with the moralistic unsympathetic tone of this article.

    October 29, 2009 at 1:53 am | Reply
  22. Brad

    I think you're being very hard on the guy. Have you never made mistakes? Bad choices that you regretted? He (agassi) has obviously been burdened by this for some time. And he has finally taken a leap of faith and decided to come clean. regardless of his reason, his timing or the outcome, he has done the right thing. And all you're worried about is how good your heroes look.
    Sport will always have controversy until humans stop making mistakes. In which case it will no longer be sport.

    October 29, 2009 at 2:28 am | Reply
  23. Paul

    I have long felt that professional sports should only test for performance enchancing drugs.

    It is not their business to impose some arbitrary set of morals on the competitors.

    If they want to do something useful, I'd like to see them ban spitting and the disgusting clearing of the nostrels we are so often forced to see on television!

    October 29, 2009 at 2:32 am | Reply
  24. LYDIA

    Leave the guy alone. He could have kept this story secret right up to the grave, and nobody would have been wiser. Your post was extremely ironic. Sure, he has a gorgeous wife with 2 beautiful kids, but the man's not a robot. He's a human being and he had the guts to admit it. He was always my favourtie tennis player. I even named one of my kids after him (2nd and 3rd names) and I don't regret it. I'm sorry that he snorted the drug. I'm sorry for the events that led him up to it, but look at todays star, their rompings around, and everyone thinks it's NORMAL (?) I never buy people magazines, a waste of my time and my money, but I'm sure that he is a much better example to youth, that others. How different is he ? Better, because he confessed, he stopped and he is in peace with this conscience, and with this supporter.

    October 29, 2009 at 2:34 am | Reply
  25. John Markson

    Why is it a big controversy that a player known to have been a big partier did recreational drugs? And he says he did crystal meth, so it's not like he was using performance enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. Crystal meth is not HGH or testosterone, it's a drug to get someone high not something that allows an athlete to play faster, harder, longer than someone who is not taking the same drug. The writer asked if he should be forced to repay prize money. Why should he have to? Yes maybe it ruins his legacy, but no one thought he was the clean All-American anyways. He could have been the best, better than Pete Sampras, but he's admitted to not trying his best at his profession. There is no need to make a story where there is none.

    October 29, 2009 at 2:49 am | Reply
  26. Greg

    I say let him be. All superstars are subjected to and become curious when they have experienced so much in life. Andre is a great man and all the great things he has done in his life out weight his wrong doings. Drugs are not especially good for people, but for some reason most try something that is different. Most don't admit to it. Those who do, reveal a negative side to them, but they also show that they are ashamed and have the courage to admit to it. The quality and character of Andre out weigh this revelation, but leave it to the media to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Do I think what he did was wrong? Yes! Do I think any worse of him for confessing a low in his life? No. We are all human. Nobody is perfect, no matter what their status is.

    October 29, 2009 at 2:58 am | Reply
  27. Claes Johanson

    Oh comon!! He took it once! You ought not to get so uppity and panicky about this. This world and everyone in it are getting so panic stricken at the slightest bit of news. Hey, he grabbed himself by the scruff of the neck and rose to win several grand slams on the back of seriously hard work and graft (not Graff).
    Give him a break.

    October 29, 2009 at 6:19 am | Reply
  28. alex

    Question is ,is he willing to pay for what he did.

    October 29, 2009 at 11:27 am | Reply
  29. Kimo

    Andre is human like any other person in this world and for you to come down on him like this is totally uncool.

    I supported Andre when he was on the tour and I still support him to this day.

    October 29, 2009 at 10:05 pm | Reply
  30. kamanzi

    Why is it too difficult for human beings to take the truth? The man wants to come clean and heal his conscious, what is the big deal? someone once told me even when I marry I should keep on lying to my wife about certain truth because sometimes "a lie can heal a lot of wounds". Rubbbish isn't it? That means this world is full of fake people. I am out of it.

    October 30, 2009 at 9:59 am | Reply
  31. Tina from ekhichdi.com

    Well he has cheated. Irrespective of when and what he was not sporting enough to confess during his playing days. He must return back the money and his awards should be taken away from him.

    Lets give our sport clean and clear, Agassi should not be an example to follow for sport person.


    October 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  32. Alex

    This is insane! Is Agassi a "bad" person because he took drugs? Has he ever mistreated/ disrespected women, or anyone at all for that matter? Has he swindled people of their money? Has he broken any laws other than taking the drugs? Has he ever harmed anyone else?

    How many human beings in the history of mankind are capable of doing what he did: Coming back from an abysmal ranking of 141st to the Number One. I think he is absolutely admirable for that feat alone, not to mention the things he has done off-court.

    Agassi did have a bad boy image then. He took drugs for whatever reason (purely recreational/ going through a difficult time etc). But he worked his ass off, never gave up, and is today an absolute gentlemen with achievements you and I can only dream of.

    Kudos to him.

    November 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  33. Alex

    Also, to those who insist he should "return his prize money" etc, Crystal Meth does not enhance or improve your performance. It does not make you stronger, faster and increase your stamina. If anything, it has deleterious effects on the body. In SPITE of that, he managed to do as well as he did. Why the hell should he return his hard-earned money?

    November 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  34. Kevin

    Don't be so judgmental. What he did with his own time and body is not a matter for public forum harangueing. Did the drug help with his performance? No, it didn't. Maybe this and the Michael Phelps marijuana hoopla should instead be seen as instances that disprove the long-held "American" notion that "drugs are bad–end of story". Of course taking meth isn't good for you, duh. But alcohol and fried chicked are endorsed constantly to millions of fat, unhealthy slobs all across the country. To say that Agassi "isn't a nice guy" because he took some drugs is so simple and naive it's laughable. Get a perspective, will you?

    November 6, 2009 at 12:51 am | Reply
  35. Vincent

    I support Agassi coming clean now. Criticize him and berate him for his successes all you want. In the end, he came clean. He came clean now to send three messages: I messed up. If you are doing what I was doing stop. This is going on in sports now, wake up.

    November 10, 2009 at 4:12 am | Reply
  36. David

    What is all this hate about all of the sudden? People who take dangerous drugs shouldn't be chastised, they need help. Not to say that Agassi needed help from what you or me consider problems, but maybe he just wanted to try something new. And so what? It hasn't effected your daily lives one bit. This backwards thinking is the reason why we are suppose to give apologies after getting caught with harmless drugs like Aaron Sorkin with Shrooms or Michael Phelps and a bong. The dude was training for months had a phenomal summer and all of the sudden he's evil and can't be on a Wheaties box, which doesn't even taste good when one has the munchies.

    November 14, 2009 at 1:49 am | Reply
  37. drcid777

    Alex Thomas- Doing crystal meth is NEVER a one-off, and getting off it in a year is an achievement

    November 15, 2009 at 1:48 am | Reply
  38. Bob Dole

    to Alex- what the heck! come up with your own points!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Reply

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