Compassion amongst former players was totally absent as Wayne Odesnik faced up to a two-year suspension from tennis after pleading guilty to importing human growth hormone in his baggage on arrival in Australia earlier this year.
Odesnik, aged 24 and ranked 98th in the world, was stopped by customs officers on January 2 when he arrived in Brisbane to play the ATP World Tour event in preparation for the Australian Open but did not appear before Brisbane Magistrates Court until Friday.
The Johannesburg-born Florida based player was fined $Aus7,280 plus $Aus1,040 in court costs. But the cost will be far greater in terms of the rest of his career. The ATP World Tour were reluctant to comment on the situation because a full-scale investigation is ongoing into the case. The International Tennis Federation, tennis rule making body that abides to the World Anti-Doping Authority code, took a similar stance, except to acknowledge possession of a prohibited substance carries a mandatory two-year sentence.
But on hearing Odesnik was found to be carrying eight vials, each containing 6 milligrams of the performance-enhancing substance, were found in his baggage, Andy Roddick maintained: “That's just plain cheating and they should throw him out of tennis. I was shocked. We don’t need stories like that. I know that’s the minority. There's just no room for it.
“To have it be one of our guys and for us to lose a guy in the top 100, it makes me a little angry,” Roddick continued. “I don’t want that stigma attached to our country and to our players, so it really pisses me off.
Odesnik’s fellow Florida resident James Blake was no less forgiving. “People look for a way to get ahead, and that's unfortunate,” said the American who partnered Odesnik playing in the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf last May. “It's something that's frustrating. You want to feel like you're playing on a fair playing field so I'm glad they caught him."
Sam Querrey amplified the American condemnation, saying: “He messed up there, and he's got to take the consequences. Hopefully he'll learn his lesson. It's pretty easy to not cheat. I don't know why some guys do."
Guillermo Canas, the recently retired Argentine who four years ago served a 15-month ban four years ago, is a part time coach to Odesnik but only during training breaks in Miami and does not travel with the player.
“I don't know nothing but I'm surprised like everyone,” said Canas who fought his ban with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and had a two year ban commuted to 15 months after testing positive for the use of the use of the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, a substance with no benefits other than to ease hypertension but is often used as a masking agent. “I know tennis, like any sport, has drug problems.”
Odesnik broke into the world’s top 100 in early April last year and peaked with a ranking of 77 a few weeks later after reaching the final in Houston. He reached the quarter final of the Brisbane event in January and got to the second round of the Australian Open but has only registered one victory since.
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