Maria Sharapova provisionally banned from tennis for failed drug test

By admin
08 March 2016

The shock announcement has left the sporting world stunned.

Dressed head-to-toe in black with her voice shaking slightly, the Russian tennis star admitted to testing positive for a banned drug after this year’s Australian Open, at a press conference she called last night.

Maria Sharapova's fall from grace has been swift. She has already been provisionally banned from tennis and Nike was quick to "suspend it's relationship" with the world's wealthiest female athlete.

The 28-year-old tested positive for meldonium, a medication normally used to treat heart conditions.

She says she has legally been taking the drug for 10 years for health reasons, adding she had been using it under the name of mildronate and had no idea it is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada's) banned list until she received a letter notifying her of the positive test 10 days ago.

"It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years," she said. "But on 1 January the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known."

“I let my fans down, I let the sport down that I have been playing since the age of four and I love so deeply," Maria, who earns more than $20 million (R307 million) annually, said.

"I know with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”

President of the Russian Tennis Federation Shamil Tarpishchev has dismissed the positive test  as “nonsense” and said he expected Maria to be back on the court in time for Rio's summer Olympics. But it seems Wada's rules are not to be taken lightly. The organisation banned the drug "because of evidence of its use by athletes for the intention of enhancing performance.” Three-time grand slam champion Jennifer Capriati has accused Maria of "cheating the system". "What's the point of someone taking a heart medicine that helps your heart recover faster unless you have a heart condition? Is that accurate?" she tweeted.

"I didn't have the high priced team of drs that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up, " she added.

If Maria is found to have taken it for performance enhancing reasons, she could face a four-year ban from the game. If not, she may still be barred from the sport for two years, meaning Tarpishchev's prediction that Maria will feature in the upcoming Olympics seems unlikely.

But as the Guardian's Les Carpenter points out, an announcement like this is almost unprecedented for a top athlete.

"Most sports stars try to hide positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs, hoping news will not break until a suspension is revealed," he wrote after attending the press conference.

"[But] by revealing the test results herself she is attempting to take control of the story, hoping that by being up front people will believe she is being honest and really was taking mildronate for health purposes."

Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph, BBC

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