Wayne Odesnik has been back in tennis since January, quietly rising in the rankings and winning challenger tournaments following his return from a drug suspension. He hasn't been welcomed with open arms by his tennis peers.
As Jon Wertheim notes in his latest column on SI.com, opponents were openly hostile to Odesnik during last week's Savannah Challenger.
In that semifinal match, Odesnik faced off against Ryan Harrison, the young American. Showing some real moxie, as they say, Harrison maligned Odesnik throughout. Courtside observers tell us that Harrison, quite audibly, called Odesnik a "weasel" and an "embarrassment to American tennis."
In Odesnik's previous match, his opponent, Amir Delic, rolled his ankle midway through the quarterfinal. "If it was any other guy, I would have pulled out right away," Delic said after. "Instead I had it taped and kept the match going as long as I could, just so he doesn't have it easy in the second match."
Ouch. That's some Player Hater's Ball smack talk. And Odesnik deserves every bit of it.
There have long been whispers that the PED problem was worse in tennis than anybody realized. It was theorized that the reason there were so few positive tests wasn't because players weren't cheating but because the ATP and WTA weren't looking hard enough. That still may be true, I don't know. Both organizations have reportedly ramped up testing in recent years but there's still a legitimate chance that the lack of positive tests is a "see no evil, hear no evil" situation.
The reaction of the players suggests otherwise. Nobody's being shy about speaking their mind about what they think of the suspended Odesnik. When a cyclist tests positive, fellow riders are mum. Baseball players don't treat Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire like pariahs. (That's left to the writers.) Football? Please.
By treating Odesnik this way, players are clearly voicing their opposition to use of PEDs in their sport. I'm not naive enough to think that because a couple of guys publicly criticize a cheat that the entire sport is clean, but it's undeniably positive that there's open scorn for such behavior. Even if part of the player outrage to do with the fact that Odesnik snitched in order to lighten his sentence, as Wertheim believes, it's still better than turning a blind eye to his suspension.