Agassi reveals drug abuse in autobiography

By Ross Salese
December 3, 2009

Shannon Keough

Andre Agassi, a tennis player who was larger than life, a man who transformed the game of tennis into a realm it had never seen before. A player whose extraordinary performances on the court were accompanied by even more extraordinary outfits, hairstyles and relationships that drove his popularity through the roof. Under those outfits and record setting play, lay a dark secret, one of regret, frustration, drug abuse and a life which was not his own.

In Andre Agassi’s recently published autobiography “Open” he admitted to the use of crystal meth in 1997. After a failed drug test, he lied in a letter to the ATP tour saying he unwilling took the substance and the case was thrown away.

Agassi says in his book “Then I come to the central lie of the letter, I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim’s spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.”

Agassi said, “I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it.”

The end of a life that wasn’t his own, a life forced upon him by his father. A marriage that was brought upon by his stardom, and a drug introduced to him by a trainer that he saw as an escape.

“Hating tennis was a deep part of my life for a long, long time.” Agassi said.

His admission to drug use was a surprise to all; some say he should be stripped of his awards and taken out of the record books. But for what? Trying to escape a life he so badly hated?

For the past decade drugs, sports and lies have been front page news. Athletes in every sport from swimming to football use performances enhancers to increase their stats and in turn, their paychecks. Andre Agassi’s story can be looked at with a sigh of relief. Players like Mark Maguire and Barry Bonds still deny the use of steroids, as they sit atop the record books. Agassi told the truth eventually, and is trying to make the best of it.

Andre’s hate of tennis came at a early age his father a Iran Immigrant taped ping pong paddles to young Agassi’s hands. By the time he was 6, Andre was practicing four to five hours a day. Sometimes his father would even dismiss school as a waste of time, and send Agassi to the tennis courts to face a tennis ball machine that shot balls 110 mile per hour.

“It always came with a level of pressure, a level of anxiety, it never made sense to me” Agassi said. He couldn’t tell his father how he really felt, because his father put the burden of supporting the family on Andre’s tennis career.

Agassi’s tennis career was one of the most celebrated and publicized ever. His good looks, outgoing personality and signature hair garnered a life in the spotlight. A life where he was married to movie star Brooke Shields and his image plastered on television screens and billboards everywhere. He was so concerned with his image that he got a hair weave at the age of 17, when his trademark due was falling out.

Agassi said “What does this mean if people found out or what does it mean to my endorsement companies, what’s it mean to my overall image, what’s it mean to me?” “I was just living a fraud, just living in hell.”

The night before his first Grand Slam final during the 1999 French open, his hair peace fell apart in the shower, terrified Andre and his brother pieced his hair back together with bobby pins. The following day he said he barley moved the whole match, afraid his hair would fall out. The last shot of the match Agassi just stood there.

“When the match was over I had won,” Agassi said.

For a man to divulge his deepest secret to the world, one that could potentially ruin the image he once tried so hard to protect is a feat to applaud. He revealed all, to be at piece with himself. To rid himself of a burden that had been keeping him in life he no longer wanted anything to do with. If image were everything he would have never written the book. His second chance in life inspired him to close that chapter and move on, clear his conscious and reveal what made his life so bad to the point of drug use.

In an interview with Dan Patrick, Aggasi said “A role model has two jobs, to tell what to do and what not to do.” Andre faced the harsh reality that drugs advertise an escape from reality, but reality is still there after. He lived this reality and through his books he wants to teach people in dire situations, people that wake up in lives they don’t want and didn’t choose that drugs aren’t the answer.

“I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story,” Agassi said.

In the end, Agassi’s life was one he did not choose it was forced upon him. He hit rock bottom but rose out of depression and self-pity to live a life he chose for once. His book was as much for him as it was to educate. He wanted to help people and send a message to children. Agassi said, “I wrote this for and to my children.”

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Ross Salese

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