Odesnik faces ruling of anti-doping body

Updated: March 27, 2010, 12:45 AM ET
Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia -- Wayne Odesnik, an American tennis player ranked No. 98, pleaded guilty Friday to importing human growth hormone into Australia before a tournament leading to the Australian Open. He was fined more than $7,000 and could be banned from tennis for two years.

The 24-year-old player was stopped by customs officers on Jan. 2 when he arrived in Australia ahead of the Brisbane International, a warmup for the year's first Grand Slam event. Eight vials, each containing 6 milligrams of the performance-enhancing substance, were found in his baggage.

Among players commenting on the case, Andy Roddick was the most outspoken about Odesnik's guilty plea.

"There's nothing worse than that," Roddick said at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. "That's just plain cheating, and they should throw him out of tennis. There's just no room for it."

Odesnik pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, the Australian Customs Service said in a statement late Friday. He was fined $7,280 plus $1,040 in court costs.

"We are extremely disappointed in the behavior of this individual, which is in no way representative of the sport of tennis," the ATP said in a statement e-mailed to the AP.

ATP spokeswoman Kate Gordon wrote that she couldn't comment on any details of the case because it's considered a "current investigation."

Odesnik was born in South Africa and moved to the United States as a toddler. He turned pro in 2004 and is something of a journeyman, with a 32-42 career record in tour-level matches, zero ATP titles and a best ranking of 77th.

He has reached one ATP final, on clay at Houston last year, and the highlight of his Grand Slam career was reaching the third round at the French Open in 2008.

Odesnik spends part of the year training in Miami. He's coached there by former top-10 player Guillermo Canas of Argentina, who served a 15-month ban in 2005-06 after failing a doping test.

Canas, who coincidentally announced his retirement as a player Friday, said he doesn't travel with Odesnik and was surprised to hear about the HGH case.

James Blake, who played World Team Cup with Odesnik, said he liked him but didn't know him well.

"It's the same thing you hear about the criminal next door -- he seemed like a nice guy until they found something going on," Blake said. "People look for a way to get ahead, and that's unfortunate. It's something that's frustrating. You want to feel like you're playing on a fair playing field. I'm glad they caught him."

Another American in the top 100, Sam Querrey, said he hadn't talked to Odesnik since January and was shocked by the news.

"He messed up there, and he's got to pay the consequences," Querrey said. "Hopefully he'll learn his lesson. ...

"It's pretty easy to not cheat. I don't know why some guys do. It's pretty easy just to put food and water into your body and not inject things."

Roddick, Querrey and Blake said they don't think there's a doping problem in men's tennis.

"We have the most stringent drug-testing policies in sports," Roddick said. "We're up there with the Olympics. We can't take Sudafed."

U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Tim Curry said the USTA wouldn't comment. Tennis Australia also declined comment Friday, referring questions to the International Tennis Federation. The ITF said it was notified that Odesnik pleaded guilty.

"The case has been referred to the tennis anti-doping program, and we don't have any further comment," the ITF said in a statement to the AP.

Under the World Anti-Doping Authority code -- to which the ITF abides -- Odesnik faces a possible two-year suspension for possession of a prohibited substance.

Odesnik reached the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International and the second round of the Australian Open at Melbourne. He has since played in four tournaments in the U.S., advancing beyond the first round just once.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority was aware of the charges against Odesnik. It said in a statement it has "power to receive information from Customs and to carry out investigations into possible violations of anti-doping rules."

Marion Grant, a spokeswoman for the Customs Service's Border Protection Enforcement, said: "This prosecution ... should act as an important deterrent for other elite athletes who are considering similar activities."

Australia's Customs Act has an extensive list of performance-enhancing substances subject to import control.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press