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Odesnik return sparks fury in US

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Originally published on: 04/08/11 10:13

Wayne Odesnik played his first ATP main draw match since his one-year doping suspension for bringing human growth hormone into Australia in January 2010, losing 6-1 6-1 to Radek Stepanek at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

His return coincides with the suspension of fellow American player Robert Kendrick, who was issued a one-year ban after the 31-year-old naively took an anti-jetlag pill that contained the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

The return of Odesnik, who was initially banned for two years for knowingly importing the performance enhancing substance but had his sentence halved for complying with ITF anti-doping regulations, has provoked an angry reaction from his fellow players who are behind Kendrick’s bid to have his sentence reduced from a year to three months after denying any intent to take the substance to enhance performance.

“For all intents and purposes, to end [Kendrick’s] career, I think is pretty hard,” said compatriot James Blake this week. “Especially when we got a guy (Odesnik) who’s playing in this tournament (The Legg Mason Classic) that I think has done a lot worse.

“I saw some article about him where he even admitted that he probably wasn’t that close to a lot of the Americans before all this happened. And now that it has happened, it’s probably even more of a divide.

“He (Odesnik) has never really been on the forefront of any of our minds as a guy to call and really support and go out and cheer for. [The other Americans] are out there cheering for me, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen Wayne doing the same for us.”

Ryan Sweeting, who plays top seeded Gael Monfils in Washington later today, added: “The punishment [Kendrick] received compared to punishments other players received is absolutely absurd. When Odesnik got caught smuggling performance enhancing drugs into another country and he got six months. I don’t understand the logic behind it and all the players are wondering what the hell is going on.”

Andy Murray also leant his support to world No.106 Kendrick earlier this week, tweeting: “Robert kendrick should not be banned, he failed a test for taking a sleeping pill! Can’t see how that is performance enhancing! Free kendo”

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