Wimbledon 2013: Wayne Odesnik tries to put past behind him ‑ but trouble is never very far away
American's Grand Slam return overshadowed by fresh allegations and 'whistleblower' past
Wimbledon press conferences are frequently bizarre, with questions on subjects far removed from tennis, but not many are peppered with suggestions that questions be put "to my lawyer".
That was the case as Wayne Odesnik was required to follow a marathon five-set first-round loss to Jimmy Wang with a clearly unwelcome interrogation about his links with performance-enhancing drugs and his role as an alleged whistleblower, on that subject and also on match-fixing.
Odesnik is one of the few people in tennis to have been punished for possession of performance-enhancing drugs. He was caught in late 2009 by Australian customs officials with human growth hormone (HGH) and given a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation, reduced to one year for giving "substantial assistance" to the ITF. His career, which had stalled after a promising start, went into freefall. Today was only his second Grand Slam appearance since his ban.
Having reached the main draw through the qualifiers, and actually served for a place in the second round before losing to in five sets to Taiwan's Wang, the experience could have been regarded as a successful step towards redemption were it not for a story that broke in the Miami New Times.
This alleged that Odesnik, together with some high-profile athletes, including baseball star Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez, had been customers of Biogenesis, a Miami anti-ageing clinic with, the paper claimed, a lucrative sideline in supplying sportsmen with performance-enhancing drugs.
The paper reproduced what it claims were hand-written notes from the clinic which contained the athletes' names. Some of those relating to Odesnik were in notebooks referring to the years since his return from suspension.
Odesnik, like Rodriguez and others, have since issued denials. Odesnik claimed the reports were "by all accounts erroneous" and that the paper had retracted its claims. As of last night, the paper had not done this, merely carrying an update with the denials.
"None of this is true," added Odesnik. "I don't have any connection with [the clinic]. You can ask my lawyer. This is old news. This is four years ago. I've learned a lot from some of the things that have happened. I'm doing the best I can to move forward. My main goal is to stay healthy and try and become a better version of myself on and off court.
"I have been tested in the last three years on a regular basis. I know this year I have been tested every single month. I've had an out-of-competition test, blood and urine, on a regular basis. I'm tested by Usada [United States Anti-Doping Agency], ITF and Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency]. I've never missed an out-of-competition test. I've done nothing wrong. I'm as clean as a whistle. I don't know what more you guys want from me."
Some clarity might help. Odesnik has always denied he took HGH for performance-enhancing reasons, providing several improbable excuses instead. The upshot was a two-year ban, but that was back-dated to the date of the offence and commuted by half in return for his co-operation with tennis authorities. Odesnik has subsequently denied snitching on other players – and did so again today – but it is known he appeared as a witness in proceedings against Daniel Köllerer, an Austrian player later banned for life (though not through Odesnik's testimony, as this was described as unreliable).
Köllerer was banned for match- fixing, not doping, which is intriguing since Odesnik had already been linked to a match-fixing scandal of his own after a staggering £1m was placed on his losing a 2009 first-round Wimbledon match, several hundred thousand of it accurately forecasting a 3-0 scoreline.
Having taken six years to reach the top 100, Odesnik's ranking tumbled during the ban. He reappeared in January 2011 and began the slow climb back. At times his tennis suggested he could surpass his career-high of 77, but the prospect of his redeeming his reputation appears elusive.
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