Tennis

Local Odesnik pleads guilty to HGH importation, faces two-year ban

Weston resident Wayne Odesnik, the 98th-ranked tennis player in the world, faces a two-year ban from the sport after pleading guilty Friday to importing human growth hormone into Australia from the United States on Jan. 2.

Odesnik, 24, was traveling to Australia to play in the Brisbane Championships and the Australian Open when he was stopped by customs and border patrol at the airport. They found eight vials of the drug, 6 mg each, in his baggage. He was fined $7,286 and had to pay $1,142 in court costs.

Odesnik has never tested positive for drugs, but under International Tennis Federation and World Anti-Doping Agency rules, he would face a two-year ban for possession of a prohibited substance. The ITF is investigating the case.

Andy Roddick and James Blake came down hard on their fellow American.

“If he pled guilty, there's nothing worse than that,” Roddick said late Friday night. “It's just plain cheating and they should throw him out of tennis. There's no room for it. I was shocked. I was surprised. We don't need stories like that. If that's the case, I have zero sympathy. If you have possession, you know you're not supposed to have it. You're not supposed to be anywhere near it. You're not supposed to smuggle it into a country.

“If you have it, you either have it to sell it or you have it to take it. Either way, it's no good. I know Wayne a little bit. I wouldn't say we're friends, but he used to train in Austin sometimes. Normally, when this happened it tennis, it's been someone that I don't really know at all. To have it be one of our guys and for us to lose a guy in the top 100, it makes me a little angry. I don't want that stigma attached to our country and our players, so it really p-sses me off.”

Blake was equally disturbed by the news.

“I believe this is, if not the cleanest, one of the cleanest sports out there,'' Blake said. "I ask guys from other sports about their testing policies, and they're not nearly as strict as ours. I wouldn't say shocked (to hear the news) because sports is a business and people are trying to find ways to get ahead. This is one unfortunate incident, one person out there might have tried to make it uneven. I'm glad they caught him.

“It's not fair to the guy ranked 100 in the world, 97 or 99 that is doing it on hard work and determination. I was 140 in the world for a while, I was at 150. I wanted to get better. I wanted to be in these kinds of tournamentsbut if I didn't get there I wasn't going to do anything to my body first of all to be unfair to the other players, unfair to the sport that I love and possibly to do harm to my body in the future.''

Blake, like Roddick, considered Odesnik a colleague, but didn't know him well.

“He's a nice kid, but it's the same thing you always hear, that the criminal next door seemed like a nice guy until they found something going on. As much as you know people out here, there's probably only 10 guys I know really well. Other than that, they're all acquaintances. Like colleagues you exchange pleasantries with, but you don't know their home life. We had a couple good laughs here and there in the locker room, but I don't even know where he lives.''

The ATP said in a statement: “We are extremely disappointed in the behavior of this individual, which is in no way representative of the sport of tennis. Tennis is a fully WADA compliant sport and this case is under the jurisdiction of the ITF, which oversees the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. We remain wholly committed to a clean sport for our players, tournaments and fans.''

Roddick said he is proud of the strict drug testing program in tennis, and he hopes they start testing for HGH “the sooner the better. I hope they come up with a test and start slamming guys...start picking people off. I take a lot of pride in what we have to do on a daily basis, how responsible we have to be, for one … lack of a better word … jackass to ruin it for the rest of us.''

Odesnik emigrated to the United States from South Africa with his family when he was three years old. He reached a career-high of No. 77 last year, and he has earned $665,979 since turning pro in 2004. His father, Harold, owns a jewelry store in Aventura.

Odesnik did not return phone or e-mail messages.

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