Agassi pleads for compassion over drug use
Fri, Nov 06, 2009

NEW YORK - Andre Agassi has pleaded for compassion from critics over his taking of crystal methamphetamine, saying he "needed help" to fight depression in 1997.

CBS released excerpts from Agassi's interview in the "60 Minutes" programme Thursday with the entire story to be aired Sunday night regarding his admission of taking methamphetamine in an upcoming memoir as well as other aspects of his life and career.

Agassi became emotional when interviewer Katie Couric read him the words of Martina Navratilova, who compared Agassi to Roger Clemens, a star baseball pitcher who has denied wrongdoing despite links to performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's what you don't want to hear," Agassi said. "I would hope with that would come some compassion that maybe this person doesn't need condemnation. Maybe this person could stand a little help.

"Because that was at a time in my life when I needed help. I had a problem, and there might be many other athletes out there that test positive for recreational drugs that have a problem. So I would ask for some compassion."

The former world number one's new book, "Open", will be published next week.

Agassi said he is uncertain how the revelations will impact how he is regarded or whether he belongs in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

"I don't know what the ramifications are," Agassi said. "I had way more to lose by telling this story in its full transparency than I had to gain.

"The price that that comes with is the cost that I've assumed and I'm OK because the part that I worry and think more about is who this may help."

Agassi, now married to retired tennis star Steffi Graf, admits in the book that he hated tennis for much of his career despite his skill, having been forced into the sport at an early age, but eventually developed a love for it.

"I was tortured by it. Hated it. Took ownership of it. Started to have a relationship with it. Started to embrace it. Started to extract from it and grew to love everything it had to give me, which was the relationships in my life, the people, the fans," Agassi said.

"It was a gift. I go out with my wife now and I hit balls and I can enjoy it."

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