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.