Andre Agassi thinks his own fall from grace with the use of recreational drugs may have helped tennis protect itself by calling in the outside governance of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Speaking at Melbourne Park on Friday while touring to promote an autobiography, Agassi said, “I think that tennis has always led the way [in drug testing]. I really believe that. For their own reasons I might have played a part in it, for them going to WADA and the governance that has no horse in the race. That, to me, is a great thing.”
Then Agassi turned the focus back to himself, and his use of drugs during his playing days — the most talked-about portion of his book.
“For me, it would have kept me from destroying a few years of my life. That’s what I did to myself with the use of the recreational destructive substance of crystal meth. It would have saved me on a lot of fronts. The more testing, the better as far as I am concerned. The stricter, the better; the more transparency, the better, the more accountability, the better.”
Agassi said it has been hard for him to stomach the revelations of Lance Armstrong.
“Sadness, disappointment, I think ‘anger’ is a fair word,” he said. "I was certainly one of those who flat-out believed him over that long period of time. The thought of it not being the case was unconscionable to me.”
Agassi also talked about how the game has evolved.
“I marvel at it all,” said the man who won four Aussie Open titles, collected eight Grand Slams in all and achieved the career Slam.
“My whole game was based on playing with that sense of urgency and to force guys to be ballistic out there, to treat a marathon like a sprint,” he said. "I benefited from raising the stakes. I had more or less four hours in me before I knew I was running on borrowed time, physically. That’s four hours of me running other people, you know.
“So to watch them do it, they’re more calculated now. They play slower, so six hours is not the same six hours that I played. But these guys like [Novak] Djokovic and [Andy] Murray, they’re much better athletes. They also appear to be stronger in the lower body than I was; in the upper body, not so much. But my game was never about using my legs as much as they do.”
Agassi said he relied on getting an opponent behind in a point and “slowly smothering them.”
He went on, “But now nobody’s behind in a point. You never know when they’re behind. That would have eliminated any ability I had to move forward in the court. That means I would have had to have been a different player. It means the game has gotten a lot better.”