Friday, March 26, 2010
Odesnik faces ruling of anti-doping body
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.
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.
The ATP Web site lists former top-10 player Guillermo Canas as Odesnik's coach. Canas 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.
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.