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Odesnik’s drugs ban suspended

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Originally published on: 23/12/10 09:26

American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year drugs ban for importing Human Growth Hormone into Australia halved by the International Tennis Federation.

The South African-born 25-year-old was stopped by customs officials on January 2 when eight vials of HGH were found in his baggage as he arrived in Australia for the Brisbane International.

The scandal saw him condemned by fellow American players including Andy Roddick who, at the time, said that carrying a substance like HGH is “just plain cheating and they should throw him out of tennis.”

“There is no room for him,” agreed world No.16 Mardy Fish.

But Odesnik has now been granted permission to return to competition as early as December 29 – since his initial two-year ban for importing HGH was backdated to start on 29 December 2009 – because the former world No.77 cooperated with anti-doping authorities.

“I am thrilled that I can return to the game and compete in the sport about which I am truly passionate,” said Odesnik in a statement issued through his attorney.

“I have learned a lot during my time away from competitive tennis and I now have even a greater appreciation for what a privilege it is to be a professional athlete.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank my family, true close friends and fans who have stood by me during this difficult time; I am deeply grateful and humbled by your support.”

Stuart Miller, who oversees the ITF’s anti-doping program declined to say how Odesnik cooperated because “it might compromise what we are doing,” but the ITF’s anti-doping program says that up to 75% of an athlete’s ban can be suspended ‘where the participant has provided substantial assistance’ in uncovering other offences.

Miller was keen to stress that Odesnik is not completely off the hook and still has an “ongoing obligation” to cooperate with authorities or the remaining 12 months or the ban could be reinstated.

“I want to make one thing clear: the suspension hasn’t been lifted or taken away,” Miller said.

In spite of being caught in possession of HGH, Odesnik – who reached his only ATP World Tour final in Houston in 2009 – has always denied using HGH and has never tested positive for the banned substance.

However, Odesnik – who could even return to competition in Australia if he were to receive wildcards into main draw ATP Tour events – can expect little sympathy in the locker room on his return to the professional circuit.

“He’s a good player on enhanced substances,” said Mardy Fish on Wednesday, “lets see if he can be a good player without them.”

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