Tennis-Odesnik denies spying to get drug ban cut

LONDON, June 27 Wed Jun 27, 2012 6:07pm BST

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LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) - American Wayne Odesnik denied on Wednesday that his two-year drug ban had been halved by tennis authorities because he provided them with insider information about other players.

Odesnik's case has caused discontent among players who believe his suspension was cut under International Tennis Federation (ITF) rules which state that this can happen "where the participant has provided substantial assistance" in uncovering other offences.

The South African-born 26-year-old lost in the first round at Wimbledon on Wednesday, his first grand slam since the suspension was imposed in 2010 after he admitted obtaining human growth hormone (HGH) in the U.S.

"“I would 100 percent never say anything bad about a player or do something that I was a spy or something of that sort. This is utterly 100 percent false," he told reporters after being knocked out in a five-set marathon by Germany's Bjorn Phau.

Odesnik was banned for two years after admitting he carried eight vials of HGH to Melbourne where he was playing in the 2010 Australian Open.

The drug, banned under the sport's anti-doping programme, was discovered by Australian customs.

The ITF said at the time that Odesnik had “asserted that he had purchased the growth hormone on medical advice to treat a recurring injury.

He said he intended to apply for a “therapeutic use exemption prior to using it and denied ever taking HGH.

The sentence was later halved because of what the ITF called “"substantial assistance provided by Mr Odesnik".

An ITF spokesman referred to that statement when asked to comment on what Odesnik had said.

Odesnik was asked why his sentence had been halved.

"“I explained to them (the ITF) why I had the medication," he told reporters. "I proved to them medical information of why I had it and for that I was 100 percent honest with them.

“"I never tried to lie to them. I was completely honest with them and therefore they understood the reasoning why I had it and they reduced my sentence," he added.

Odesnik said his medical records could substantiate why the medication was recommended to him by doctors.

“"It's medical information, which (is) with the ITF, that is private information just as if you go to the doctor. It's private," he said.

Asked directly if he had ever given any information about other players to the authorities, he replied: "“100 percent no."

When quizzed about what kind of reception he received from other players in the locker room, he said: "“Most of the players are pretty cordial, I guess you can say.

“"I'm pretty cordial with a lot of the players. I have always kind of been - at night I don't go and have dinner with them. I have never been that way."

He was asked if he thought what he said would now clear the air in the locker room.

"I'm telling you the information I gave to the ITF and the reasoning behind it," he said. "I was completely honest with them, gave them all the information and four months of records."

Odesnik said he now wanted to “let his "racket do the talking". (Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)

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