Agassi's confession: a 'wake-up call for ATP'
LOS ANGELES: Andre Agassi's admission he used a banned drug in 1997 should serve as a wake-up call to the ATP that they need to act now before they are shamed into it as a result of a scandal, says Dick Pound.
"It has got to the point where either these sports organizations enforce the rules or someone like congress is going to say 'we gave you a chance to manage your affairs properly and now we are going to take it over,'" said Pound, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Eight-time grand slam champion Agassi admitted in his autobiography, called Open, that he'd taken the highly-addictive drug crystal methamphetamine and then lied to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to escape a ban.
On being told he had tested positive for the banned stimulant, Agassi said he wrote a letter 12 years ago, claiming he had taken it by accident and asking for leniency. No disciplinary action was taken.
"The fact that one of the stars acknowledged that it is simple to beat the system tells you everything you need to know," Pound told AFP in a telephone interview. "He lied about the test but the most interesting part is the ATP and why they did not do anything."
Mary Joe Fernandez, captain of the American Fed Cup tennis team, said she was stunned to hear of Agassi's failed drug test.
"A bit of a shock more than anything else," Fernandez said. "You know obviously I was disappointed to hear something like that but you know it takes a lot of guts and courage to come out and say something that you know nobody would have really known about.
"I've always admired Andre and he was a huge part of inspiring my generation.
"You know he's opening up now and that's his choice and maybe people can learn from it."
Fernandez said players nowadays get tested over two dozen times a year so she doubts anybody could get away with what Agassi did.
"The drug testing is so severe that I can't imagine anybody getting away with anything now," she said.
"Players are getting tested in and out of competition at least 25, 30 times a year.
"So for the last five, six years it's been pretty strict, or as strict as it can be."
The ATP issued a statement Wednesday saying that an independent panel makes the final decision on a doping violations.
"It has always been ATP policy not to comment on anti-doping test results unless and until an anti-doping violation has occurred.
"Under the tennis anti-doping program it is, and has always been, an independent panel that makes a decision on whether a doping violation has been found.
"The ATP has always followed this rule and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter."
Pounds, a senior Canadian member on the International Olympic Committee, doubts the validity of many of the panels that monitor drug offences in professional sports.
"I have heard about some of these panels. They are not serious panels. They are like the one USA track and field used to have," Pound said.
"The mere fact they have a panel doesn't make it independent or rigorous."
Pound, a former world class swimmer who competed for Canada in the 1960 Summer Olympics, said sports organizations need to realize that their superstars serve as role models for young athletes.
"The problem is these examples being set by professional sports heroes.
"What ends up happening is 15- and 16-year olds start taking the stuff."