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DES KELLY: The cover-up was the real story, not Andre Agassi's drug use
Published : 02 Nov 2009 16:25:22Rss feed
Boo hoo. Everybody has to have a sob story these days. Daddy didn'treally like me, sniff; a man looked at me in a funny way, snivel; Ineeded publicity and had to take my clothes off, blub. Some television channels (OK one, ITV) appear to be sinking into amucus-filled pit of cheap tears and self-regarding snot. It's notdifficult to work out why these shows make it to air. They cater to avital demographic by entertaining all the people we see being arrestedon Cops With Cameras as they serve their home curfew court orders. The motivation for tuning in is a misplaced belief that the C-listcelebrity wiping away crocodile tears on screen is having an equallymiserable existence as the oven chip-eaters watching the programme.Gawping at other people's misery is meant to cheer us up. But it doesn't. And as if we didn't have enough household names sorry, caravan-park names 'baring their soul'; as if we didn'talready have enough publicity seeking navel-gazers, along comes AndreAgassi with a new book. Now this is not a former soap star or failed singer in desperateneed of notoriety. The man was a celebrated athlete and remainsproperly famous for his Grand Slam winning achievements. But the script he is trading is as familiar as the unpleasant offerings blown into trash TV tissues. Tears for tennis: The Agassi case shows the sport has issues There is the customary hatred of what he does, a collection of badDad anecdotes, an ill-judged and failed marriage, plus the obligatory'amazing journey' through adversity to final redemption. And did Imention the drugs? There's always drugs. The first time I heardAgassi justifying why he had decided to tell the world he used 'crystalmeth' I wondered whether he was still on something. He announced: 'Ifelt my story was one from which many people could earn.' ActuallyI'd misheard him. Agassi was saying 'people could learn' from hisgrubby revelations, the argument being he was doing society a favour byproducing his book. But he would have been right the first time. Thisautobiography is all about dusting down enough scandal to warrant thefat $5million advance he had received from his publishers, he didn'tset out to contribute to some greater truth. More from Des Kelly... DES KELLY: Well done Rafa Benitez, you've got the Liverpool fans fooled23/10/09 DES KELLY: A fat lot of good it will do to ban Manchester United boss Fergie16/10/09 DES KELLY: Cyberspace is for stalking ex-lovers or shopping, NOT football 09/10/09 DES KELLY: Celebrate the moment but don't push the boat out too far02/10/09 DES KELLY: Yes, Gary, you may be worth £60,000 a week, but is Diouf?25/09/09 Des Kelly: Great joke City, but Fergie has the punchline18/09/09 DES KELLY: Hats off to Fabio Capello and the end of England's WAGs11/09/09 Des Kelly: Beware the Child Catchers! English prints all over stolen goods04/09/09 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE We did learn something, however, Agassi was right about that. Although I doubt it was the lesson he hoped. Welearned to never, ever trust a word any sportsman or woman ever offersup as an alibi when they are accused of taking drugs, no matter howpristine their reputation may be, no matter how squeaky-clean theirimage appears. Agassi's lurid description of the long weeks hespent snorting the hugely addictive Class A drug crystalmethamphetamine ('a tidal wave of euphoria I felt like Superman,dude') was deeply depressing for all those who regarded him as anambassador for his sport. But the details that follow are moresignificant. After testing positive, he subsequently wrote to theauthorities falsely assuring them he had accidentally taken a gulp ofhis coach's spiked drink. Quietly, and without fuss, they dropped theinvestigation. That story is corrosive beyond belief. IfAgassi's autobiography stands for anything, then let it sound the deathknell for any sports star seeking the benefit of doubt when it comes todrugs and an end to the idea that any sport can police its owncompetitors. All those excuses trotted out about positive tests being caused by asthma inhalers, cold remedies, excess vitamins, passive smoking, hair restorers, diet pills and the rest. They're gone. Had your drink spiked? Not after Agassi, you haven't. Who's going to believe you? With drugs, it's simple. Everybody who posts a positive test is guilty until proved innocent, whatever their alibi. It's a view I've adopted for a number of years, mainly because it saves time. Agassi has unburdened his conscience when it will cost him nothing in winnings. Some say he has been courageous in being so candid, but he is no more courageous than a man who calls from Argentina to say he burgled your house a few years ago. He knows the authorities can't touch him. The focus now turns to the wider implementation of anti-drug measures, since Agassi demonstrates how complicit ruling bodies can be in protecting their big names. Ask yourself a question: Would the athletics bosses ever release information that branded Usain Bolt a drug cheat? I doubt it. If they did, the game would be up for track and field. These organisations are so compromised with self-interest and the fear of disappearing sponsorship in the wake of public disgrace it is only right to wonder if they can never truly expose their own failings. Knowing how easily Agassi escaped sanction, how does the case of Richard Gasquet look now? This is the Frenchman who tested positive for cocaine earlier this year, but claimed it was because he had kissed a woman in a nightclub who was on drugs. She was only identified as 'Pamela'. Amazingly, he was cleared for this dog-ate-my-homework excuse. Excuses, excuses: Gasquet Then there is the case of Martina Hingis, who tested positive for cocaine and immediately retired,announcing she was 'completely innocent' yet unwilling to contest the charge. No word on whether she has ever used the name Pamela as yet. But Petr Korda served my all-time favourite excuse. The former Australian Open champion became the first well-known tennis player to be banned for using nandrolone claiming he only tested positive because (drum roll, please) he had eaten veal that must have been injected with steroids (cymbal crash). Ah, yes, the old 'my-veal-was-spiked' defence. I believe it is an alibi more usually employed in Royal circles. Korda might have got away with it too had he possessed a brand profile as formidable as Agassi's. Remember the brash, exciting American was worth big bucks to the Tour with Nike investing more than $100m as his main sponsors. Mind you, that 'Just Do It' slogan takes on a very different connotation with hindsight. More recently, tennis players like Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray have been very vocal in expressing their displeasure over increased measures to combat drug use, moaning it is inconvenient to keep updating testers about their whereabouts for one hour every day. Well, tough chaps. It's the price on the ticket. If anyone says tennis doesn't have any hidden issues with drugs, mention Agassi. The moral of his story is 'trust nobody', a conclusion that should be a genuine crying shame. But if it changes thelaissez-faire attitude to drugs that still persists in some sports, it might be the one saving grace found among the dross of these ugly confessions. It figures: Phil is one in a millionDo the math: Brown The cliche used to be that 'everyone would give 110 per cent effort'. But like the controls on his sunbed, Hull City manager Phil Brown cranked up the dial to a ridiculous high with the claim that: 'The players are one million per cent behind me.' At this point, it is only logical to say no such amount exists, since per cent is an abbreviation of 'per centum', which means 'by the hundred'. Strictly speaking, a hundred per cent is, therefore, the most there can be. But forget his peculiar maths, the fiddly Captain Black microphone he wears and an awful tendency to talk about himself in the third person. Phil Brown knows full well that Phil Brown performed a miracle when Phil Brown guided Hull City into the Premier League for the first time in their history. They are not there by some divine right. They are not a football super power blessed with enough resource to regard a place at the top table as their entitlement. Just because Brown's water-into-wine moments have run dry lately it doesn't mean he is suddenly an awful manager who deserves the sack. He took Hull further than they have ever been and then kept them there last season. Now we hear he's about to be sacked. If his fate rests on results (and, let's be honest, it always does) a lot of people appear to have very short memories. After what Brown has achieved, he deserves more thanks and loyalty at Hull. I'm a million per cent sure of that. It seems that Sulaiman Al Fahim's head is as empty as his wallet. He continues to chatter as if he were some kind of big player on the football scene, instead of a pretender whose only contributions to Manchester City and Portsmouth were large deposits of embarrassment. The 32-year-old (don't laugh) has stopped calling himself doctor. But he still professes to be a 'sports addict' who 'loves chess and has invested in women's volleyball and horse racing'. Yes, that could make him a sports addict. It could also make him a sofa-loving pervert with a gambling problem. Who knows? But Al Fahim, the man who couldn't pay the Pompey players, now says he dreams of buying Real Madrid or Barcelona. Of course he does. I think those 'dreams' have been his problem all along. Luckily, the rest of us are wide awake. Marlon King's agent says the convicted thug with a history of violence against women will be back in the game once he completes his prison sentence. The horrible truth is, he's absolutely right. Chelsea have a brilliant new player who simply lights the place up. Who is this Joe Cole and where has he been? When he left the pitch last weekend and headed into the embrace of Carlo Ancelotti, it was hard to decide which of them had the bigger smile. Cole for England, I say. You heard it here first. What?
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