Safin latest to criticize Agassi

Former top-ranked men's player Marat Safin believes that Andre Agassi should give his tennis titles back after confessing he tested positive for a banned substance during his career and lied about it to the ATP.

Marat Safin said in a interview on Tuesday that former rival Andre Agassi should give his tennis titles back after confessing to using crystal meth and lying about a drug test to the top men's tennis body.

Agassi has admitted in his autobiography Open that he used crystal meth several times in 1997 and that he told the ATP after a failed drug test that he mistakenly ingested a drink laced with the drug, which was a lie.

Safin said in an interview with L'Equipe newspaper on Tuesday that Agassi should "give his titles, his money and his Grand Slam titles" back.

"I'm not defending the ATP, but what he said put it in a delicate position," Safin said. "The ATP allowed him to win a lot of tournaments, a lot of money. It kept his secret. Why does he need to be so cruel with it?"

Agassi has maintained he did crystal meth entirely in 1997, a year in which he didn't win any tour titles and played in only one Grand Slam event.

Agassi's ranking would drop to a career-low 141st in November of that year. He would begin a comeback the following year and climb all the way back to the top spot in a span of two years.

"If he is as fair play as he says he is, he has to go to the end," Safin said. "You know, the ATP has a bank account and he can give the money back if he wants."

Safin, 29, is playing at the Paris Masters this week, the last significant tournament before he retires. The Russian has enjoyed two Grand Slam triumphs in his career, but has also had long bouts of ineffective play and been fined several times for outbursts on the court.

The criticism comes just a couple of days after a 60 Minutes interview aired in which Agassi drew a fine line between his own drug past and the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Former women's player Martina Navratilova last month said she was shocked by Agassi's revelations, and compared him to Roger Clemens, the pitcher accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

When asked about Navratilova's opinion on 60 Minutes, Agassi was visibly upset.

"When somebody takes a performance inhibitor, a recreational drug, the one thing I would hope is, not that there are not rules that need to be followed, but along with that would come some compassion, that maybe this person doesn’t need condemnation, maybe this person could stand a little help.

"And I had a problem and there might be many other athletes out there that test positive for recreational drugs that have a problem, so I would ask for some compassion."

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won 60 titles, including eight Grand Slams, during his career.

The 39-year-old has said he couldn't write an autobiography without including all of the details of such an important period of his life.


Chris Iorfida

Senior Writer

Chris Iorfida, based in Toronto, has been with CBC since 2002 and written on subjects as diverse as politics, business, health, sports, arts and entertainment, science and technology.

With files from The Associated Press