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McEnroe Accused of Using Steroids

Tennis: Ex-wife Tatum O'Neal, who is in rehab, also says former star used cocaine and marijuana off the court.

June 26, 2002|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

John McEnroe's ex-wife said the former tennis star used steroids while playing and dabbled in drugs off the court during their six-year marriage.

Tatum O'Neal spoke out about McEnroe during an interview with Barbara Walters for an episode of ABC's "20/20" that will be broadcast Friday, according to a release from ABC News.

O'Neal, an Academy Award-winning actress who is attempting a comeback, was responding to McEnroe's recently released autobiography, "You Cannot be Serious." In the book, McEnroe disparaged their marriage, which ended in 1992.

McEnroe, 43, became notorious for his on-court blowups and tirades toward umpires, and won seven Grand Slam events in his career while dominating men's tennis in the 1980s. He is in London to announce Wimbledon matches for NBC and the BBC and was not available Tuesday for comment.

In an interview that is sure to light up the tabloids in England the rest of the week, O'Neal said McEnroe used steroids " when he was coming back after [their second son] Sean was born" in 1988.

O'Neal said she made McEnroe stop taking steroids because "he was becoming violent." She said McEnroe "would take out all his rage on me," making her sit in a chair and circling it while sometimes yelling. O'Neal said she left McEnroe after he "kicked me down the stairs."

"I never had a plan. I never thought, 'Oh, I've gotta leave this guy,' " she said. "But he kicked my ... down the stairs. And I thought, my little 5-year-old's gonna open the door and see his mother on the floor, with this crazy man yelling over her and I can't take it anymore and I gotta go and I was about 28."

O'Neal, who has had repeated bouts with drug addiction and is currently in a rehab program in Los Angeles, said McEnroe used marijuana and cocaine off the court during their marriage.

In a statement read by his agent, Gary Swain, McEnroe said, "I am very disappointed in Tatum's statements. I had hoped that after all these years she would see things more accurately and that she would share my concern for the welfare of our children."

McEnroe has custody of the couple's three children. McEnroe has been married to singer Patty Smyth since 1997.

Last week, O'Neal, 38, told a British tabloid that McEnroe's book, which he wrote with James Kaplan, was "all [garbage]."

"It's not true," O'Neal said. "He's a sociopath."

In a September 1992 interview, O'Neal called McEnroe shy, shrugging off his on-court tantrums.

"John is really much more temperamental in his work than at home," O'Neal told Parade magazine. "Privately, he's shy. It's endearing to me that he keeps something to himself."

McEnroe, who last won a Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in 1992, was in Los Angeles on June 15 to promote his book and signed copies for about 50 people at a book store on Sunset Blvd. McEnroe said he took a hard look at himself while writing the book.

"It's not a fluffy type of portrayal, but warts and all, the bad and the ugly," McEnroe said at the book signing. "It's not about how great I am."

McEnroe also mentioned that a few elderly women had driven from Fresno just to see him.

"I'm big with grandmas," he quipped.

In addition to calling tennis matches for NBC, McEnroe hosted the short-lived ABC quiz show "The Chair," which was canceled in March after less than two months on the air.

O'Neal won an Academy Award as best supporting actress for "Paper Moon" in 1973. She played a lead role in "The Scoundrel's Wife," a movie released with little fanfare in March that marked her first starring role in more than 10 years. In the movie, O'Neal played a widowed mother in Louisiana who is suspected of aiding enemy forces during World War II.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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