When Martina Navratilova learned that Andre Agassi tested positive for crystal meth and got away with it by lying, she compared Andre to U.S. baseball player Roger Clemens. Martina was referring to Clemens’ lies about using steroids in the face of evidence to the contrary. Whether it was intentional or not, by comparing Andre to Clemens she put the focus squarely on both players’ suspicious late career success.
Clemens resurrected his flagging career and won four of his seven Cy Young awards and both of his World Series rings after the age of 30. Andre won five of his eight slams after the age of 29.
Clemens explained his success in magazine articles detailing a brutal workout regimen with his trainer Brian McNamee. The articles extolled Clemens’ work ethic as he pushed himself to new heights on the stationary cycle and endured hours of medicine ball torture with McNamee.
Replace McNamee with Gil Reyes and you have a similar scenario. Agassi met Reyes in 1989 but it was 1999 when Andre says the two of them agreed to retool his workouts. Now the magazine articles described interminable sprints up a 320 yard paved hill on Christmas morning. Andre turned 29 in 1999 and that year he won both the French Open and The US Open – the first and only time he won multiple slams in one year.
Retooled workouts are a plausible explanation for Andre’s later success but suspicion now comes with the territory after getting duped by Clemens. And then there’s baseball player Barry Bonds who set the record for home runs when he was 36 years old and also attributed his late career success to hard training.
There’s evidence that Clemens cheated. His trainer covered his own butt by keeping tainted needles he used to inject steroids into Clemens’ butt. Gil Reyes would never in a million years out Andre. And the ATP – nor it’s pre-WADA independent drug organization or whatever it was the ATP blamed for swallowing Andre’s lie for the crystal meth postive – clearly wasn’t interested in disclosing drug use by its players.
We’re not supposed to taint legends without evidence. But we should at least be rolling our eyes at Andre’s late career success with as much cynicism as we showed at the French kiss defense Richard Gasquet used for his positive cocaine test.
Others rolled their eyes too. Gasquet is currently defending himself in front of the Court of Appeal for Sport (CAS). The CAS is appealing the decision by an independent tribunal called by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) which gave Gasquet a two and half month suspension. The ITF and the World Anti-Doping Agency think he should have been banned for at least a year.
Major League Baseball protected baseball players before the league was pressured into starting a drug testing program. The ATP protected tennis players before the ATP accepted Olympic drug testing standards. That protection helped players at the time but now it leaves them under permanent suspicion without much hope of resolution.
Then Andre comes out with the most revealing sports autobiography I’ve ever read and I wonder if part of it is a cover; a way of distracting us by highlighting his crystal meth escapades so we’ll bemoan his recreational drug use instead of wonder about his late career resurrection.