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Ex-WADA chief questions Sharapova praise

Maria Sharapova (Twitter)
Maria Sharapova (Twitter)

London - Praising Maria Sharapova for honesty after she admitted to a doping offence creates a misleading impression, former World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) president Dick Pound told AFP on Wednesday.

Tennis superstar Sharapova, 28, risks a four-year ban and has lost a slew of big-name sponsors after admitting on Monday that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

Rivals including Serena Williams praised her for coming clean about her use of Meldonium, which was added to WADA's list of banned substances on January 1, but Pound said that it was wrong to depict the Russian's announcement as some kind of mea culpa.

"If it had been a spontaneous acknowledgement that she had taken this stuff and somehow didn't realise it was a banned substance (you could praise her honesty), but she got caught," he told AFP during an interview at the Tackling Doping in Sport Conference in London.

"She tested positive. She's advised of a positive (test) outcome. There's a protection for athletes in the system -- if you think it's a bad analysis, you can analyse the B sample.

"She said, 'No, not necessary. I acknowledge that I've taken it.' So you've been caught and then you're saying, 'Well, it was a good cop.'"

Sharapova's major sponsors Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche have all distanced themselves from her since her announcement.

But American skincare firm Supergoop, of which Sharapova is co-owner, said on Wednesday that it will "continue to support her as the ITF (International Tennis Federation) investigation unfolds".

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