November 6, 2009 / 12:31 AM / 9 years ago

Agassi asks for compassion for drug use

Andre Agassi of the U.S. looks on during an exhibition tennis match against compatriot Pete Sampras at Venetian Macao in Macau October 25, 2009. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Andre Agassi, mired in controversy after admitting to using crystal meth, pleaded for compassion from his critics in a television interview that will be broadcast on Sunday in the United States.

During the 60 Minutes interview, excerpts of which were made public on Thursday, Agassi discussed his explosive autobiography “Open” in which he admitted to using the recreational drug and his battles with depression.

At one point, the former world number one becomes emotional after being asked to respond to criticism from Martina Navratilova, who compared him to baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who is battling doping allegations.

“Yeah it’s what you don’t want to hear,” Agassi told interviewer Katie Couric. “I would hope along 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.”

In the book Agassi candidly describes being introduced to the drug in 1997 and the moment when he was informed he had failed a drugs test. He later lied to men’s governing body the ATP about his use and escaped a ban.

Despite the bitter backlash, Agassi said he has no regrets about disclosing his drug use, even if it eventually ends up costing him a place in the Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I don’t know what the ramifications are. I had way more to lose by telling this story in its full transparency than I had to gain,” Agassi told Couric.

“The price that that comes with is the cost that I’ve assumed and I’m okay because the part that I worry and think more about is who this may help.”

Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Greg Stutchbury

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