Notes on a scandal.
I was educated to believe in due process. Due process is the essence of what I study, do and practice. I treat it like a Commandment – thou shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Thou shall have all the rights of an innocent man, even if those rights produce an irrational result, even when they lead to cumbersome procedures and wasteful delays.
Because ultimately, due process is the one safeguard we have against an angry, irrational mob. It’s what stops the innate desire within us to imprison, kill or harm those who do wrong to our sense of justice. And should we err, at least we err on the side of caution. Due process is totally my Roger Federer.
Umm … what I meant to say was, I’m a fan of due process. Okay?
And yet, Wayne Odesnik’s case never felt like it was about due process. He has already been afforded those rights by the Brisbane Magistrates Court. He was found guilty of importing HGH into Australia, and as we know – possession in itself is a doping offence.
So why is he still playing?
“A provisional suspension without a hearing is not allowed under the tennis anti-doping programme,” ITF Technical Commission anti-doping chief Dr. Stuart Miller told AFP.
“We are conducting an investigation at the moment. We are following the process described in our anti-doping programme, we have no choice but to follow this process, it is in our rules and regulations. We are trying to conduct it as quickly as we can.”
“I can’t control what the players think. We can’t change the rules just for the sack of one instance. We have to follow the rules.”
Here we get to the irrationality of affording someone due process: Yanina Wickmayer, who neither failed nor missed a test, was suspended before she had a chance to appeal, while Wayne Odesnik gets to keep shoving HGH in our faces in Houston, seemingly protected from the full wrath of the anti-doping program.
Never mind, the rules are rules. I can’t argue with them. Or rather, I choose not to. I’m a fan, remember?
But the rules aside, what of Odesnik?
A part of me can’t help by marvel at his sheer audacity in deciding to play in Houston.
He must’ve known that he was in for quite a verbal shellacking both in the media and in the locker room this week. He must’ve known that there is a slim-to-none chance that he’ll get away with this. He must surely know that once he’s banned, he’ll have to hand back the prize money he wins this week. So why keep playing? Why deny those who didn’t have vials of HGH pulled out of their suitcases the chance to earn some points and prize money?
To quote a now infamous cold war exchange – “have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
Is it defiance? And defiance against what – the concept of fair play?
Is it denial? How does one deny something he’s already admitted to in court – possession of a banned substance?
“I have never used nor taken HGH or any other banned substance in my life. I am fully cooperating with their investigation and I will have no further comment on the matter until it is concluded.”
Total bullshit aside, suppose I am willing to entertain the idea that there is some massive unforeseen twist in the plot here. Suppose I am inclined to play the devil’s advocate: why keep it a secret Wayne? If you do have a get-out-of-jail card, why not play it now? Why hide behind a notorious attorney known for defending sports criminals? Why “release” a statement of denial rather than a “good faith” explanation? Or simply a declaration of regret?
How can I even play the devil’s advocate if I can’t put a human face on that devil? By being evasive, ducking behind his fancy attorney and exploiting the ITF red tape, Odesnik has turned a shady situation into a nasty one, instead of being a man, owning up and apologising?
Deep down, I think he knows that morally it would be the harder path to take, but easy was never an option. Not from the moment he got caught.
To add another dimension to the plot, Sam Querrey has told the Houston Chronicle in reference to playing Odesnik, “I refuse to lose to that guy”.
When asked about Sam’s statement, Odesnik quipped, “we’ll see what happens tomorrow.” And boy, I can’t wait. I’m getting popcorn.
The two has never faced each other on the ATP tour, but Odesnik leads 3-0 in challengers and futures. Querrey, of course, is a much better player these days than back in 06 when the pair last played. He’ll no doubt go into the match as the slight favourite, but as we know – clay is Wayne Odesnik’s most successful surface. More importantly for Samurai Sam, he has to win because he wants to win, because he wants to be in his first clay final and because he is the better player.
Because the alternative – seeking some sort of poetic justice – doesn’t sound like much of a winning strategy.
I feel like I’m missing something here. I wish I could understand the finer points of the arguments on both sdies of the issue because maybe then I’d be able to generate outrage at Odesnik but I can’t seem to do it. It seems to me that folks want him to simply disappear to avoid embarrassing the sport even more. I guess I can understand that impulse, but if this is potentially his one remaining shot at playing as folks say he will be suspended, then why shouldn’t he take it? Why should he suffer so that others feel cleansed in some way?
If the rules have been constructed in such a way that he is allowed to play, then why penalize him or try to shame him to disappearing? It’s strange as I’m not great fan of Odesnik ( saw him in DC and hated his on court posturing and demanding that the court cheer for him because he was an American playing on American soil), yet I find the whole indictment of him slightly disgusting. Maybe some element of the case will be revealed to allow me to dig up some moral outrage. I’ll have to wait and see.
I don’t tend to be one for sensationalist moral outrage either,but I totally disagree,surely it’s not a case of him being shamed into disappearing,but the fact that he himself should feel that shame and choose not to play?
And as for having one final shot before suspension,why the hell does he deserve that?He cheated and went against a pretty basic principle of being an athlete,simple as that…
Not a knock on you but interesting to have some debate over these things!
Hey A_Gallivant, I know where you’re coming from, I’m personally uncomfortable with the shaming culture too. But I think that’s more so when a person hasn’t been found guilty of anything, but the media has jumped the gun to blame them for certain crimes.
The problem here is that Odesnik has pleaded guilty to a criminal offence. But has then turned around to deny it in another separate investigation. What amazes me is that the ITF anti-doping program has so little interaction with the drug laws of host countries. To me, if someone has been found guilty of a drug offence under a criminal justice system, they should automatically be suspended unless they produce evidence to rebut the suspension.
Not only that, Odesnik has shown no sign of regret over the situation, no apologies for essentially cheating. And while he continues to play, he puts other players in an unfair situation – they’ve complied with the law and with anti-doping rules, yet they’re being forced into the same playing field as someone who hasn’t.
From the outset, it harms the integrity of the tournament. How can fair play exist if there’s a dark cloud hanging over one of the semifinalists?
hmm, maybe should have written this note not at 4:30 AM, meant “sides of issue” and “shame him into disappearing”
Since he had the audacity to take HGH in the first place, and brought it into Australia somehow thinking he wouldn’t get caught (probably because he’s done so many times), it’s not that hard to believe he would play Houston, honor be damned.
The ITF doesn’t explain in their statement the complete illogic of rules that take a top 20 guy out of two Slams for a salt-grain of coke, yet allow someone who has pleaded guilty to posession of a significant quantity of a growth hormone to keep playing — both while investigations were still going on.
Evie – as illogical as it sounds, I think the difference between Gasquet and Odesnik is that Gasquet tested positive period.
By the time he was banned, the ITF had already wrapped up its own investigation. All the media hoopla was then centred on Gasquet’s appeal.
For Odesnik, the ITF hasn’t even finished its initial investigation yet. Although investigation seems to be a mere formality given the outcome of the criminal trial. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ITF bans Odesnik and he decides to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport too.
When Gasquet failed a drug test, was he suspended or did he just not decide to play until the matter was dealt with??
Thats what confuses me with the Odesnik situation. I always thought with any drug-related case, they suspend you immediately until an appeal is requested.
Also, what with Australia having one of the strictest border controls, did they charge him with anything or is that still ongoing?? Because I always thought you got jail time for that.
With people like Gasquet and Wickmayer, they had reasons to appeal. But Odesnik has openly admitting what he did so I don’t see how anyone can defend his actions. Also, regardless of whether he took the drug or not, what he did was just as bad.
Also, what if he actually ends up winning this tournament? Surely that will be one of the most arkward trophy ceremonies and he’ll be one of the most unpopular champion of any tournament.
Gasquet was suspended. Then he appealed.
The difference is that Odesnik never “failed” a drug test, since tennis (I think) is yet to test for HGH use.
As for Australia – yes, being an island continent, we have one of the strictest border controls to stop people from bringing in drugs or inadvertently carrying non-native pests into the country.
We also have a *much* lighter sentencing culture than a lot of other countries, Odesnik has been found guilty of importation, but only received a $7000 fine as the sentence.
Dootsiez beat me too it with a much more concise and better explanation 😛
Pretty sure Gasquet got suspended without any choice,it’s all so ridiculous and confusing,but I *think* the difference legally is in the fact that his positive result came from within a structure of a tennis (and sporting) government body,whereas Odesnik’s was from Australian customs and so totally separate from the ITF or WADA,so they have to hear and assess it again??Tell me anyone if I’ve totally made that up 😛
But yeah,I still don’t understand even in that case why the ITF can’t decide to suspend him pending investigation…
I feel sorry for Xavier Malisse, he along with Wickmayer was banned for falling foul of the ridiculous whereabouts rule and he was defeated by Odesnik in the quarterfinal 6-4, 6-1, I’d be furious if I were him.
Even if he were actually found to be doping himself, is there really any player out there on the ATP tour who fears seeing the name Wayne Odesnik in his part of the draw?
Now that I’m awake again, it’s good to read other thoughtful comments. I think the key point for me in this whole debacle is this piece from you Doots: “What amazes me is that the ITF anti-doping program has so little interaction with the drug laws of host countries. To me, if someone has been found guilty of a drug offence under a criminal justice system, they should automatically be suspended unless they produce evidence to rebut the suspension.”
It appears that this is the major difference between Odesnik and more recent drug issues with the ITF. Wickmayer and others failed to be responsive to the ITF’s own process while Odesnik was embroiled in something that was independent of ITF, which is why they have to do their own investigation. I guess the corrective for the ITF is crafting language that says while being investigated, you are not allowed to participate in tourneys. etc. However, I can see that opening a whole can of worms where an individual is found not guilty and they then lobby a case against the ITF about missed earning opportunities, etc.
On one level I would agree with Doots that if tennis is occurring in a particular country, the ITF should be willing to use the findings of that country’s legal system to penalize athletes. But that becomes challenging if a particular host country’s laws/process is deemed unjust/unfair/suspect. If that is the case, then ITF’s independence is good to have. Though why you would want to take your athletes into a country with dubious laws is beyond me but hey, folks follow the money all the time. “Cough” looking at u Dubai!
My own inclination is to not be entirely outraged at Odesnik for using the ITF’s own loophole to his benefit. Believe me, I’m as suprised at this impulse as anyone. I’m all for fair play and people taking on the onous of being perceived as a good sportman. Maybe the worse I can say is that Odesnik is not the most honorable of athletes but I draw the line at impugning his character further for drug trafficking, regardless of the drug.
To date, he has never admitted to using the drug or was found guilty of using the drug. Did someone say that tennis athletes are not currently tested for that drug? Unless that changes, I just can’t jump on the bandwagon to savage the guy as so many of his colleagues have done. Clearly, they have been suspicious of him, ’cause no one seems willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Much of it all seems to be not so much about the legal wrangling that Odesnik is using to his benefit, but the perception that he has been doping.
At least I think I get the finer points of the debate a bit more now from some of your comments.
The ITF did not issue the suspensions for Wickmayer and Malisse. Their country suspended them.
Since the Flemish anti-doping agecy and the ITF are both signed onto WADA, the ITF respects those suspensions.
Wickmayer and Malisse refused to comply with whereabouts. Amazingly, they did manage to show up to events.
The biggest problem with the cases is nobody actually reads, so most of the info out there is nonsense.
The Odesnik case is not some deep coverup or any other nonsense the press puts out there. These are legal cases, governed by a lot of rules.
Odesnik has no deep secret. He is just shelling out a lot of mony for a lawyer. His argument is simply if you want to suspend me, then you first must prove that I planned to ingest the hgh.
All the dumb behind had to do was serve a two-year suspension, come back, and move on with his life.