ITF says statute of limitations expired

Updated: March 17, 2010, 9:37 PM ET
Associated Press

ROME -- Tennis officials have closed the book on Andre Agassi's drug revelations.

International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti told The Associated Press Wednesday that despite appeals from the World Anti-Doping Agency, the statute of limitations in the case expired long ago and no retroactive punishment was possible.

In Agassi's recently published autobiography, "Open," he wrote that he took crystal meth in 1997 and lied to the ATP to avoid a suspension after failing a doping test.

Ricci Bitti says "the ATP is the only entity that could have shed light on what happened, but it's too late."

The statute of limitations in the case is eight years.

"The ATP is the only entity that could have shed light on what happened, but it's too late," Ricci Bitti said. "WADA asked information from the ATP without much success. As a member of WADA's executive committee, I'm obviously very disappointed that Agassi -- such a great and emblematic player -- decided to make these revelations.

"I'm sure he had his reasons, which were not easy to understand. ... There were a lot of strange reasons involved. From a sports point of view, it's very unfortunate. I think what he did hurt our sport."

In another drug issue, Ricci Bitti is awaiting the outcome of appeals launched by Belgian players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse, who were given one-year bans for violating WADA's whereabouts rule.

The suspensions were lifted in December after the players appealed to a Belgian court, and both still have appeals pending with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Wickmayer also has taken her case to the European Commission and the European Court for Human Rights.

"It's a very important case because it could have consequences resulting in the revision of the WADA code," said Ricci Bitti, who is also an International Olympic Committee member.

Wickmayer claims she was not properly informed of the online reporting requirements for drug-testing that led to her ban.

Under WADA rules, elite athletes must be available for out-of-competition testing for one hour a day, 365 days a year. They must give three months' notice of where they will be so they can be tested.

Regarding recent talk from some players and promoters calling for a tennis World Cup, he reiterated that the ITF is not about to abandon the Davis Cup.

"Everyone has the right to bring in new ideas but the players have to understand that the Davis Cup is part of tennis' history, just like the Grand Slams, and it should be respected," he said. "That doesn't mean the international federation isn't open to new ideas."

One such idea Ricci Bitti mentioned is the addition of fifth-set tiebreakers for the Davis Cup.

"There are a lot of things we are considering for the Davis Cup," he said. "But right now we don't see any reason to change something that works so well."

The proposed World Cup would involve rules changes and 32 teams playing in a 10-day biennial event at a single venue, according to details discussed by Novak Djokovic in January.

Lastly, Ricci Bitti discussed problems facing the French Tennis Federation over plans to build a new stadium for the French Open, with opposition from residents and some members of the Paris city council.

"Clearly, the French federation has a dilemma on its hands. Maybe it could obtain a small amount of land -- because there is a minimal amount of space available -- but the big problem is that Roland Garros is in a very high-class residential area and it's difficult to carry out big projects in an area like that," Ricci Bitti said.

The French federation's contract to use the current site runs through 2015, and it has brought up the option of moving the tournament to the Paris suburbs.

"If Roland Garros was in America, I think it would [move]," Ricci Bitti said. "Americans are better than we Europeans at taking decisions. We're more attached to history and we try everything we can to hold on to that. It's not just difficult in monetary and financial terms, it's a challenge culturally.

"I'm in contact with the president and the federation, and I'm sure they'll resolve the situation eventually."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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