Tennis star Odesnik fined for importing HGH

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The Independent Online

US player Wayne Odesnik faces a ban from tennis after pleading guilty in an Australian court today to importing human growth hormone into the country.

The 24-year-old Odesnik was stopped by customs officers on January 2 as he arrived in Australia ahead of the Brisbane International and Australian Open, and eight vials, each containing 6 milligrams of the performance-enhancing substance, were found in his baggage.

Odesnik, pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to importing the hormone, the Australian Customs Service said in a statement late Friday. He was fined $8,000 Australian dollars (US$7,280) plus A$1,142.80 (US$1,040) in court costs.

Tennis Australia declined comment Friday, referring questions about Odesnik to the International Tennis Federation. The ATP, which runs the men's tennis tour, did not immediately respond to messages left for comment.

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

Odesnik, who is currently ranked No. 98 in the world and has a career-high ranking of No. 77, 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 United States, advancing beyond the first round just once.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority was aware of the charges against Odesnik before he played in the season's opening tennis Grand Slam tournament.

"We've been aware of the case as part of our usual information sharing agreement with the Australian Customs Service — that's how we got notified," a ASADA spokesman said in a telephone interview on the condition of anonymity.

"We had to wait for Customs to take it to court. Now that has happened, our investigation team will look at the information going forward."

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.