ITF investigating Odesnik
American tennis player Wayne Odesnik, who pleaded guilty to transporting human growth hormone into Australia earlier this year, won his first match at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships at River Oaks Country Club in Houston Monday, then said he wouldn't make a formal statement about the case until Tuesday.
Odesnik declined a phone interview request from ESPN.com, but spoke to a small group of reporters on site after beating wild card Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, 6-3, 6-4. The ATP provided audio of the formal press session, which lasted just under four minutes.
"I'm doing the only thing I can do right now, and that's to focus the best I can on my tennis," Odesnik said. "I've worked extremely hard and I'm looking forward to the clay court season because that's where I usually excel."
Janowicz, a 19-year-old ranked No. 293 in the world who has played just a handful of ATP tour-level matches in the last few seasons, was more vocal about his feelings.
Responding to a question from Houston Chronicle writer Dale Robertson, Janowicz said, "For me, [Odesnik] shouldn't play at this moment. He for sure should be suspended. It's a bad feeling when I know he shouldn't play. ... It's very tough to play that kind of guy."
Odesnik, 24, acknowledged that the International Tennis Federation is asking him to answer questions. But he refused to elaborate on any further details of the investigation, which likely will lead to a hearing and sanctions up to a two-year suspension. There is no indication that Odesnik has flunked a drug test, but under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, possession of a banned substance is a violation that can be punished in the same way as a positive test result. Odesnik said he had written a statement that his Miami-based lawyer is currently vetting and will release Tuesday. "I have no further comment at this point," he said.
The South African-born player is eligible to play until the ITF adjudication process is complete -- a process that was triggered by the resolution of his case in Australia. Customs officials found eight vials of HGH in Odesnik's luggage in January when he entered the country to play in a tournament in Brisbane. He has continued to enter events with the case hanging over his head, although he hasn't fared terribly well, going 4-5 in ATP tour-level events in 2010. He is currently ranked No. 103 in the world.
Odesnik's fellow players reacted angrily when Odesnik's guilty plea was made public during the Sony Ericsson Open 10 days ago. Top-ranked American Andy Roddick called for Odesnik to be kicked out of the sport. James Blake said that Odesnik had seemed like a nice enough guy in their passing acquaintance, but added, "It's the same thing you always hear about, that the criminal next door seemed like a nice guy until they found something going on."
Sam Querrey, who could meet Odesnik in Houston if both go deep enough into the draw, said, "It's pretty easy to not cheat. I don't know why some guys do. It's pretty easy to put food and water into your body and not inject things."
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com.
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