Tennis player Andre Agassi admitted in his recent autobiography that he used crystal methamphetamine in 1997 while he was in the middle of his professional career.
When Agassi first failed a drug test, he lied and told the Association of Tennis Professionals that his assistant spiked a drink and he had not intentionally ingested the drug.
Agassi's drug use has caused him criticism from Marat Safin, who was formerly ranked the No. 1 tennis player in the world. According to an article by the Associated Press, Safin said he believes that by lying to the ATP, Agassi put himself in a position where he was able to win money and titles he shouldn't have.
Safin told the French newspaper L'Equipe that Agassi should "give his titles, his money and his Grand Slam titles" back. He also added that, "If he is as fair play as he says he is, he has to go to the end … the ATP has a bank account and he can give the money back if he wants."
Safin does have a valid point: According to the International Tennis Federation Anti-Doping Rules, Agassi took a banned substance and would theoretically have to give back his prize money, as well as face a two-year suspension.
But should Agassi really have to give back his money and titles back? The answer is no. The banned substance Agassi took was crystal meth, not a performance-enhancing drug like anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.
Agassi's use of meth is more similar to running back Ricky Williams' marijuana use during his first stint with the Miami Dolphins. Wins can't be taken away from the Dolphins 10-6 season in 2003. Williams was the NFL's leading rusher in 2002, rushing for over 1,800 yards; but LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers isn't complaining that he should have won the rushing title that year because Williams took a banned substance.
The problem for Agassi is that Safin is jealous of his opponent's tremendous accomplishments as a player and is simply looking for an opportunity to diminish his achievements.
Safin retired after last week's Paris Masters, while Agassi retired in 2006. Agassi has eight career-Grand Slam titles compared to Safin's two, and has over twice as many singles victories as Safin. Agassi's career record is 870-274 while Safin's is 421-266 - a winning percentage of .760 for Agassi and a mere .610 for Safin.
In career singles titles, Agassi also has an advantage over Safin. He has over four times as many tournament wins (68) as Safin, who has only 15. Not to mention Agassi also won an Olympic gold medal in men's singles at the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Ga. Both have been ranked the No. 1 player in the world on several occasions, although Safin held the honor for only nine weeks during his career while Agassi has held the honor for 101 weeks.
But the most likely reason why Safin made these comments is due to Safin's numerous losses against his opponent throughout his career. First, in 1999, Agassi beat Safin during the Paris Masters. That would have been the first Masters Series victory for Safin; it was also his first career loss in a tournament final.
Another big win for Agassi over Safin was the 2000 Tennis Masters Cup semifinals in Lisbon. Agassi's victory over the top-seeded Safin eliminated any chance Safin had to become the youngest player to ever earn the title of World's No. 1 men's tennis player.
Safin's remarks about Agassi make Agassi look more like a cheater, somebody whose titles and victories came as a result of using performance-enhancing drugs. But Agassi is not like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez or Shawne Merriman.
Although Agassi took the banned substance during a low point in his career, he did not seek anabolic steroids or human growth hormone to enhance his technique. There is no evidence - anecdotal or scientific - that says crystal meth gives its user any type of athletic advantage.
Agassi may have made a mistake by lying about his failed test, but he should not have to give back any titles or money he earned.