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Image: Andre Agassi
Vincent Yu  /  AP
Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi has written an autobiography in which he admits to drug use.
updated 10/28/2009 10:11:17 AM ET 2009-10-28T14:11:17

Andre Agassi's upcoming autobiography contains an admission that he used crystal meth in 1997 and lied to tennis authorities when he failed a drug test — a result that was thrown out after he said he "unwittingly" took the substance.

According to an excerpt of the autobiography published Wednesday in The Times of London, the eight-time Grand Slam champion writes that he sent a letter to the ATP tour to explain the positive test, saying he accidentally drank from a soda spiked with meth by his assistant "Slim."

"Then I come to the central lie of the letter," Agassi writes. "I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim's spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.

"I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it."

Agassi said the ATP reviewed the case, accepted his explanation and threw it out. The tour responded with a statement on Wednesday, noting an independent panel makes the final decision on a doping violation.

"The ATP has always followed this rule, and no executive at the ATP has therefore had the authority or ability to decide the outcome of an anti-doping matter," the statement said.

The International Tennis Federation's Emily Bevan referred all questions to the ATP.

Agassi, who married tennis star Steffi Graf and has two children, retired in 2006. Excerpts from his autobiography, which comes out Nov. 9, are being published this week in the London newspaper, as well as Sports Illustrated and People magazines.

In a story posted on People magazine's Web site Tuesday, Agassi says: "I can't speak to addiction, but a lot of people would say that if you're using anything as an escape, you have a problem."

According to the Times of London, Agassi writes in his book that "Slim" was the person who introduced him to crystal meth, dumping a small pile of powder on the coffee table.

"I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I've just crossed," Agassi writes.

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"There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I've never felt so alive, so hopeful — and I've never felt such energy."

"I'm seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds."

Among the most successful — and, without a doubt, one of the most popular — tennis players in history, Agassi drew attention not just for his play, but also for his outfits, his hairstyles and his relationships with women, including a failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.

Agassi's first major championship came at Wimbledon in 1992, and he won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But by late 1997, he dropped to No. 141 in the rankings, and he was playing in tennis' equivalent of the minor leagues.

He resuscitated his career in 1998, making the biggest one-year jump into the top 10 in the history of the ATP rankings. The next season, he won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, then added a second career U.S. Open title en route to finishing 1999 at No. 1.

After an exhibition match Sunday in Macau against longtime rival Pete Sampras, Agassi was asked if his autobiography contained any major revelations.

"I think I had to learn a lot about myself through the process," Agassi said. "There was a lot that even surprised me. So to think that one won't be surprised by it, it would be an understatement.

"Whatever revelations exist, you'll get to see in full glory," he added. "But the truth is, my hope is that somebody doesn't just learn more about me, what it is I've been through, but somehow through those lessons, they can learn a lot about themselves. And I think it's fair to say that they will."

In a posting on People's Web site, Agassi says he "was worried for a moment, but not for long," about how fans would react if they found out he used drugs.

"I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story," Agassi says.

A writer from SI first revealed the crystal meth reference on a Twitter posting Tuesday.

According to the Times of London excerpt, Agassi was walking through New York's LaGuardia airport when he got the call that he had failed a drug test.

"There is doom in his voice, as if he's going to tell me I'm dying," Agassi writes. "And that's exactly what he tells me."

"He reminds me that tennis has three classes of drug violation," Agassi writes. "Performance-enhancing drugs ... would constitute a Class 1, he says, which would carry a suspension of two years. However, he adds, crystal meth would seem to be a clear case of Class 2. Recreational drugs." That would mean a three-month suspension.

"My name, my career, everything is now on the line. Whatever I've achieved, whatever I've worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It's filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth."

In 2007, Martina Hingis tested positive for cocaine after a third-round exit at Wimbledon. She denied using the drug but was banned for two years. In July, Frenchman Richard Gasquet was cleared to resume playing after a 2 1/2-month ban upon persuading the International Tennis Federation's tribunal panel that he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Hoda, Kathie Lee on Agassi’s book

  1. Transcript of: Hoda, Kathie Lee on Agassi’s book

    GIFFORD: But it's October 28th . We are on our way to the end of the year.

    Newscast: Hoda and Kathie Lee discuss current events

    KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, co-host: But first there's got a little thing called the World Series that's going to take place.

    HODA KOTB, co-host: OK. This is a big deal .

    GIFFORD: It is.

    KOTB: It's supposed to -- let's hope it gets played tonight, because it's kind of icky and raining. But they say they're probably going to play it.

    GIFFORD: They say -- maybe going to be out by then.

    KOTB: And there are people very, very desperate for tickets.

    GIFFORD: So desperate, in fact, that they're willing to offer up pretty much anything in exchange.

    KOTB: Anything, according to the paper.

    GIFFORD: Anything.

    KOTB: OK, the paper says that there's this woman, a Philadelphia fan, married, in her mid-40s, 43 years old.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: She put an ad out in Craigslist .

    GIFFORD: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: And in the ad she said...

    GIFFORD: She describes herself as a die-hard Phillies fan.

    KOTB: Where is it? Yeah.

    GIFFORD: Gorgeous, tall, buxom blond.

    KOTB: Yes.

    GIFFORD: And then, "Price is negotiable. I'm the creative type."

    KOTB: "Maybe we can help each other."

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: So a police officer was tooling around online and saw this and said, ` Uh-oh , may be an issue.' Went online, met her.

    GIFFORD: Right.

    KOTB: She -- he said he had one ticket and she said, `I need two.' And he said, `My brother has one.' And then she said, `Maybe I can make,' according to the police, `maybe I can make you both happy.'

    GIFFORD: A package deal .

    KOTB: And then she got in trouble.

    GIFFORD: Ooh.

    KOTB: She got arrested.

    GIFFORD: You know what, Craigslist has lots -- awful lot of people get in trouble on Craigslist , right?

    KOTB: That's trouble. Now -- yes, they do. Now, this woman's attorney says this is baloney, this -- she was not trying to do that. That's -- she's a -- she's a...

    GIFFORD: The guy's an undercover cop. He knows what he's looking for, right?

    KOTB: Yes. Well, they say she's a rabid fan who just had basic Phillies ...

    GIFFORD: She's got rabies, too? Don't...

    KOTB: Stop it!

    GIFFORD: Sorry. Just kidding.

    KOTB: Well, I have to tell you about this thing I went to last night.

    GIFFORD: Yes, you're a busy girl.

    KOTB: I was busy. OK, so last night they're -- they do a terrific event for Avon .

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: And Avon raises a lot -- a lot of money for breast cancer and also for domestic violence .

    GIFFORD: Mm-hmm.

    KOTB: It was a great crowd out there. Forget me.

    GIFFORD: It's such a woman's company, too, Avon .

    KOTB: Yes.

    GIFFORD: I love it.

    KOTB: Look who's on -- look, remember?

    GIFFORD: Who's that?

    KOTB: From "Precious."

    GIFFORD: Oh, is that Paula ?

    KOTB: Yes, that's Paula .

    GIFFORD: Paula Patton , who's married to Robin Thicke .

    KOTB: Yes.

    GIFFORD: She's expecting their first baby.

    KOTB: Suze Orman.

    GIFFORD: She is gorgeous.

    KOTB: Adorable. Suze Orman was there.

    GIFFORD: So sweet.

    KOTB: The woman on the right, her name's Sapphire . She wrote "Precious."

    GIFFORD: Oh.

    KOTB: And that's Andrea Jung , she's the big CEO of Avon . But they had a lot of...

    GIFFORD: It's a fabulous company.

    KOTB: Hold on.

    GIFFORD: Remember, ` Ding-dong , Avon calling .'

    KOTB: Yes. They had some other A-listers, it was in the paper today.

    GIFFORD: That was before you were born, I think, the ding-dong thing. But...

    KOTB: That's -- Fergie was there, Courteney Cox .

    GIFFORD: And Courteney Cox.

    KOTB: And Reese Witherspoon was the -- was the...

    GIFFORD: Was the chair.

    KOTB: ...chair. Yeah, she was the chair.

    GIFFORD: Or honorary...

    KOTB: It was great.

    GIFFORD: Yeah. Good for them. Good.

    KOTB: It was a good event. Raised a lot of money, $2 million last night.

    GIFFORD: See, living -- if I lived in New York , I would be out so much more.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: But it's hard to come in in the morning, then go home and then come back.

    KOTB: No, it's...

    GIFFORD: Plus, my daughter is, you know.

    KOTB: How is she doing?

    GIFFORD: She says, ` Mommy , why did you tell the whole world that I have swine flu ?' I said, `I just said you have a little bit of it, honey.' Just...

    KOTB: A little case. Slight case, she said.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: Is she feeling better?

    GIFFORD: She -- no, she's -- it's really...

    KOTB: Is it bad?

    GIFFORD: You only feel good when your, you know, your Motrin or whatever you're on kicks in. Other than that, it's -- and you know what's the sad part, too, these days, school is so hard...

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: ...that you're sick as a dog and you get sicker just thinking about what you're missing at school and how hard it's going to be to make it up, so.

    KOTB: Did they bring her homework home?

    GIFFORD: So the minute she feels better she goes and tries to do her homework and...

    KOTB: That's a lot.

    GIFFORD: I wish -- yeah.

    KOTB: That's a lot.

    GIFFORD: So today's matinee Wednesday. We're supposed to go see " Finian 's_Rainbow" with our dear friend Cheyenne Jackson , who's just brilliant.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And I'm just waiting to hear how she's doing.

    KOTB: You're not -- how she's doing.

    GIFFORD: So you hold up -- you and Hoda -- Sonny hold the fort for me.

    KOTB: What's her name, mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: But I hear it's fantastic.

    KOTB: OK. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: Also, there's a new book out and it's a -- it's a juicy one, I think. Andre Agassi ...

    GIFFORD: Wow.

    KOTB: ...has written a book, OK? It is called " Open : An Autobiography ." And I thought there were some really revealing things in there that we didn't know about Andre Agassi .

    GIFFORD: You know, everybody talked about that first year when he was married to Brooke Shields ...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: ...about how his game went, you know, pretty much down the toi-toi.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And they were blaming a lot of it on, you know, Brooke and the relationship and now he's a married man and all of that. Well, apparently there was something far more insidious going on.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: Who knew that he hated the game of tennis so much because he had a very, very ambitious, overbearing father, according to him...

    KOTB: Right.

    GIFFORD: ...who just made tennis a job for him from the time he was a small child.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And apparently he got into crystal meth .

    KOTB: She...

    GIFFORD: He speaks very openly about it.

    KOTB: Listen to this quote. This was -- I thought it was telling. He talks about after doing crystal meth , "I don't sleep for two days. Playing weeks later, I struggle. Afterwards, reporters ask if I'm OK. They're actually concerned. Brooke is remarkably unconcerned. Her oblivion" -- this is interesting -- "is partly due to the wedding planning, but also her rigorous premarital training regimen. For motivation, she tapes a photo on the refrigerator door. `It is a photo of the perfect woman,' she says. The perfect woman with the perfect legs, the legs Brooke wants. It is a photo of Steffi Graf ." And this came from People magazine .

    GIFFORD: Oh. Oh.

    KOTB: It's their sort of exclusive. But isn't that...

    GIFFORD: Well, you know, the good news is that Brooke went on to marry Chris Henchy and she's very happy with two beautiful girls .

    KOTB: And he's very happy...

    GIFFORD: And he's very happy with Steff . Apparently he had tried to get a relationship going with her early on, it didn't work out, and now -- and he writes very openly, too, about the fact that -- I never knew this -- he wore a hairpiece.

    KOTB: I didn't know, either.

    GIFFORD: He started going bald very, very early. Men, this should make you feel a lot better.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: He was very insecure about it, because people would talk about his hair and stuff. That was a hairpiece.

    KOTB: Well, because that was such his signature.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: But he was -- he was balding on the top.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: And so that was -- some of it was his long hair. So he had extensions and stuff. And he said he had to -- and Brooke told him shave it off.

    GIFFORD: Shave it off.

    KOTB: Get rid of it.

    GIFFORD: He's a great looking guy, so.

    KOTB: He is.

    GIFFORD: He does an awful lot for kids and charity and stuff like that, he and his wife.

    KOTB: He's such a kind -- yeah, sweet guy.

    GIFFORD: He's got like an old soul in there, you know?

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: With a great body.

    KOTB: He's hot, too.

    GIFFORD: Yes, he is.

    KOTB: Which is very important.

    GIFFORD: OK, so we got rid of the Phillies fan. Let's see.

    KOTB: Well, a lot of people were out last night around the country, especially in LA. It was the big premiere for " This Is It ."

    GIFFORD: Right.

    KOTB: The Michael Jackson film. Lots of people came out in cities all around the world. The big premiere in the United States was in LA.

    GIFFORD: Yeah.

    KOTB: And...

    GIFFORD: I guess quite a few of the Jackson brothers were there.

    KOTB: Right.

    GIFFORD: And I don't know, it's only supposed to be around for two weeks, but I think with this kind of reaction it's -- it'll -- they'll extend it. They'll have to.

    KOTB: What are the reviews? Have you read anything?

    GIFFORD: Well, some people said there are no surprises in it.

    KOTB: Right.

    GIFFORD: But then Elizabeth Taylor , who adored Michael ...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: ...blogged, I think, or tweeted how many times?

    KOTB: Tweeted.

    GIFFORD: Nineteen times. This is a woman who's home just having heart surgery , God bless her. I -- you know what, I love her fortitude. They have left her for dead in the press probably 20 times.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: And she's going to outlive us all.

    KOTB: Yes, she is.

    GIFFORD: Bless you, Elizabeth Taylor .

    KOTB: But she's tweeting him.

    GIFFORD: Anyway, she's tweeting saying this is the most brilliant thing in the world.

    KOTB: Right.

    GIFFORD: It shows Michael at his peak, at -- all of his creative juices are, you know, and his genius now will be preserved for all time, and go see it again and then again and again and again.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: So -- yeah.

    KOTB: I think it -- I want to see it. Do you want to see it?

    GIFFORD: I do want to see it.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: I'm just not -- I'm not one of those people that will stand and wait for pretty much anything.

    KOTB: Yeah. Right.

    GIFFORD: You know, once I decided it was Frank Gifford for me, boy.

    KOTB: That was it?

    GIFFORD: That's it.

    KOTB: You reeled him in, didn't you?

    GIFFORD: That's it. Reel him in.

    KOTB: You had him.

    GIFFORD: You know what's a funny story about that?

    KOTB: What? What?

    GIFFORD: Years ago he had just started seeing Diane Sawyer a little bit.

    KOTB: Uh-huh.

    GIFFORD: And he asked her out for the weekend coming up and Diane said, `No, I'm going off to Connecticut to study' -- she was going to have a retreat and study the poetry of not Edna Vincent Millay , but somebody like that.

    KOTB: Somebody like that.

    GIFFORD: Mm-hmm. St. Vincent Millay . Anyway, she says she came home that weekend, and she said it's as if I had found him at the grocery store and I had him in the checkout stand and walking out by the time that she got back.

    KOTB: She got back?

    GIFFORD: That's how fast I closed the deal.

    KOTB: You grabbed him?

    GIFFORD: It didn't seem that way to me.

    KOTB: Did you know that he was seeing her?

    GIFFORD: Yes.

    KOTB: You did?

    GIFFORD: It was just a -- they had just started seeing each other. And that worked out well, too. She's very happy with Mike Nichols , who's lots richer, a lot richer than Frank Gifford . So she did all right for herself. But isn't that funny?

    KOTB: I love that story.

    GIFFORD: Yeah. So there's lots more going on.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: Hoda , you know the two guys we talked about yesterday?

    KOTB: Who?

    GIFFORD: The pilots.

    KOTB: Oh, yeah, the Northwest pilots.

    GIFFORD: And we said what were -- what was on their laptop computers and everything? Apparently we're never going to find out, because they weren't interested and they let the guys go. They have...

    KOTB: They fired them.

    GIFFORD: They took away their licenses.

    KOTB: They took away their licenses, right.

    GIFFORD: Which I guess within a year -- it means they can't fly for a year. Delta 's the parent corporation . And they can, after a year, apply for...

    KOTB: Can I just ask? Why would they not be interested in what they were doing on their computers? Because it seems to me if you're busy for an hour and 20 minutes doing something that's so distracting...

    GIFFORD: Ignoring -- yes.

    KOTB: ...that you don't hear radio calls and dinging on the panel and all the different ways they tried to get your attention...

    GIFFORD: Yeah. yeah.

    KOTB: ...I'd be curious what they were doing.

    GIFFORD: I don't think this story is complete. I think there's a...

    KOTB: You do?

    GIFFORD: I think there's something else going on there.

    KOTB: There's something else. We need to know where everyone was.

    GIFFORD: And I'm not basically one of those people that looks for, you know, looks for trouble.

    KOTB: No.

    GIFFORD: It just -- there's just something wrong here...

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: ...that is not explained yet for people such as myself.

    KOTB: OK, there's some interesting video of this -- of a tiny boy, he's only five. He's Romanian.

    GIFFORD: I can't wait to see this.

    KOTB: And he is an Internet weight lifting star.

    GIFFORD: Oh, look at this kid. Look at that. Come on, that's plastic.

    KOTB: Is it?

    GIFFORD: It's got to be plastic.

    KOTB: OK, first of all, he should not -- oh! Oh, no! No.

    GIFFORD: He's not doing that properly, is he?

    KOTB: Anyway, he is in the Guinness Book of World Records ...

    GIFFORD: No, he's going to hurt himself.

    KOTB: ...for completing the fastest ever...

    GIFFORD: He looks like he's got Andre Agassi 's body and he's five years old!

    KOTB: Oh, oh, look at that! Look at him!

    GIFFORD: Look at this.

    KOTB: OK. Oh, no.

    GIFFORD: Oh, stop it!

    KOTB: No. No, no, that's not good!

    GIFFORD: No, it's really good.

    KOTB: Wait, go back.

    GIFFORD: It's just that it's freaky.

    KOTB: No, that was the scariest one with the...

    GIFFORD: I wonder what -- if Andre Agassi feels the same way about...

    KOTB: Look.

    GIFFORD: Because that's about the age he was when his father had him out on the tennis court .

    KOTB: You know what, I think that...

    GIFFORD: Unless the kid loves it, loves it, loves it.

    KOTB: What do you think?

    GIFFORD: Then that's a different thing.

    KOTB: But even if he loved weight lifting like that, would you want your five-year-old lifting all that weight?

    GIFFORD: No, I wouldn't.

    KOTB: Come on, it just doesn't seem...

    GIFFORD: Especially not -- that doesn't look like...

    KOTB: No, that...

    GIFFORD: Even that. Unh-unh.

    KOTB: No. Let's go to the part we don't like, here it comes, the one where he's doing the push-up. That one.

    GIFFORD: Look at that.

    KOTB: Ooh, ooh!

    GIFFORD: You know, Hoda , I do 20 of those right before the show every morning.

    KOTB: I'm sure you do.

    GIFFORD: Just to get, you know. There's a book I want to share with you.

    KOTB: Yes, OK.

    GIFFORD: We're coming to the end of October, which is obviously Breast Cancer Awareness Month .

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: But a friend of mine sent me this book.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And it's absolutely -- if you've -- it's called, " Nana , What's Cancer ?"

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And the American Cancer Society put -- is -- at least it's got the seal of approval right there. It's -- a grandmother wrote the book with her granddaughter. She's the only remaining grandparent left. The other -- this child, Tess , has lost all three of her other grandparents to cancer.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm. Hm.

    GIFFORD: And one day as they were having tea, she said, ` Nana , what exactly is cancer?'

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: And from their discussions came this very healthy dialogue and this very healing dialogue...

    KOTB: Hm.

    GIFFORD: ...for this young girl who's -- you know, for -- families get cancer.

    KOTB: Right, right.

    GIFFORD: You know, when you did, your whole family was around.

    KOTB: Yeah. Sure.

    GIFFORD: And, you know, you all suffer. So it's a lovely, lovely book for families that are going through it to read with your children to perhaps get some insight and some healing for you.

    KOTB: That's interesting. Because that is a hard...

    GIFFORD: Because we don't talk about the children unless they have cancer.

    KOTB: No. Right.

    GIFFORD: But what about the children whose parents have it...

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: ...and would need a little help? So that's available, I'm sure, Amazon , anywhere else.

    KOTB: OK.

    GIFFORD: But thank you for sending the book, Pete .

    KOTB: Excellent.

    GIFFORD: It's a beautiful little book.

    KOTB: Yes.

    GIFFORD: Oh, look at who's all snuggly wuggly over there.

    KOTB: Hi , Miss Sara . Oh, in pink?

    SARA HAINES reporting: Check it out.

    KOTB: Hello.

    HAINES: If you're -- if you're not much of a reader, we've got the limited edition push-up Snuggie . This is actually a great cause, it's -- the benefits of this are -- go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation . They've made a donation of over $50,000. It's 14.99.

    KOTB: Where do you get it?

    HAINES: Available at retailers nationwide.

    KOTB: Retailers nationwide. I like that.

    GIFFORD: You know what, I got a -- we laughed so much about the Snuggie when it first came in, but since Cass has been sick, she's in that thing.

    KOTB: She's in it?

    GIFFORD: Finally I said yesterday, `Where's your Snuggie ?' She goes, `It's being washed.' Everybody's so afraid it's just full of flu, you know, it's being washed. But they're very comforting.

    KOTB: They're cozy. It's cozy, right, Sara ?

    HAINES: Well, it was smart to do this, because we all wrap in blankets, and now they just gave you the arm holes.

    KOTB: Yeah.

    GIFFORD: It's really great. OK, Miss Sara Sage , thank you, darling.

    KOTB: All right. Up next, we're going to find out why men don't listen.

    GIFFORD: Straight talk from a guy, right after these messages.

    KOTB: Mm-hmm.

    GIFFORD: Straight talk .

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