Monday, August 15, 2011

Wondering about the Wayne Odesnik situation

An interesting result occurred this past weekend a little off the beaten path in Binghamton, NY. There at the annual challenger event leading up to the U.S. Open, American Wayne Odesnik reached the finals before falling to Paul Capdeville of Chile in straight sets.

Now, we all know Odesnik and the controversy surrounding him (and in case you don't, here are my thoughts on his drug case last year). After serving a suspension, he's essentially had to rebuild his career from the ground up. The crazy thing is he's doing a great job of that. He's gone from being unranked at the beginning of the year to the top 150 as of today: Essentially, that means he's playing some mighty fine tennis.

However, there is that enormous cloud hanging over him, which hasn't exactly endeared him to his peers. (It's been well-documented that players are going out there with an extra bit of motivation against him.) If he is guilty of cheating, then he deserves all the animosity directed toward him.

But let's say he maintains this level of play over the next year and ends up in the quarterfinals of the French Open, for example: Will U.S. fans embrace him? Will he greeted with open arms by the USTA as a hope for American tennis? Or will the drug thing hang over him even then?

I guess it's a situation all the parties involved with will have to deal with at a later time. Going by the way that Odesnik is playing, though, it might be something that comes up a lot sooner than people might think.

(Photo: AP)


Chapeau said...

Thought the above link would be useful context for how convicted dopers return to their sport. Given the relative scarcity of actual doping violations (as opposed to punishments for administrative slipups/laziness a la Malisse and Kendrick) in tennis, there's no set way to accommodate players returning from a doping suspension.

The link above describes how cyclists returned from doping suspensions and how their reception varied based on their popularity before they were caught, their previous career accomplishments, and the personal circumstances of the athlete. As despicable as Odesnik's offense was, I'm not too keen on the statements that American athletes have been making about him. I feel like many of them have resorted to being petty and immature when talking about Odesnik. I would have preferred that these athletes speak about anti-doping, rather than making every effort to reiterate the fact that Odesnik is now a pariah and how he doesn't hang out with them anymore. Those statements overlook the central issue, which is doping.

Perhaps if Odesnik does succeed and makes his way into the top 50, he may have more chances to explain his return to tennis. Maybe if he truly regrets his mistake he can speak out against doping in tennis and explain how he came around. Given his relative obscurity right now, I don't think the media will be paying too much attention to him. It's interesting though, that Chela is now a player whose past doping offense is now largely forgotten. Chela seems to get along with the Argentine players, so perhaps there is hope for Odesnik if he stays clean and continues to play tennis.

Tennis Geek said...

I agree with the previous comment that some players have sounded "petty and immature" when speaking about Odesnik. It's clear from their remarks to the press that these guys didn't like Odesnik much even before his offense.

After a criminal serves out a prison sentence, he or she gets a chance to start fresh. Why should it be any different with Odesnik? He did something wrong and was punished severely for it. Now he's having to start his career over--and he's doing an impressive job of it.