Tennis star Maria Sharapova has hit out at tennis authorities for failing to warn her that Meldonium, a drug she had been taking had become a banned substance.
The five-time Grand Slam champion was initially suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for a period of two years. However, her ban was reduced to 15 months on appeal. The Court of Arbitration for Sport in its decision announced her doping was unintentional as Sharapova had been taking the drug for 10 years to treat a Magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes.
Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency list of banned substances at the start of 2016 after evidence emerged that the substance had performance enhancing qualities.
Sharapova said an ITF official could have easily visited her and told her that the substance was now a prohibited drug. The tennis star however did admit she was equally wrong and accepted she had become “complacent” and was responsible for failing the drug test. Sharapova remarked she was getting clearance on everything she was taking for seven years and she became complacent.
In a statement, the ITF said it denies any knowledge of Maria Sharapova's use of Meldonium at any time prior to her positive test for the substance during the 2016 Australian Open. The ITF added all samples taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency were anonymous so they did not have that information. The International Tennis Federation also remarked Meldonium was part of WADA's monitoring program in 2015 prior to its addition to the prohibited list in 2016 and also said all samples that were analyzed for the purposes of that program were kept anonymous. The ITF also commented that any such sample could not be associated with a particular player and the results of the monitoring program were not shared with anti-doping organizations until after Sharapova's positive test.
Defending Sharapova, tennis legend Arantxa Sanchez Vicario said Sharapova has served the punishment for her anti-doping rule violation. Sanchez remarked there will be a difference of opinion on this issue but she thinks Maria has already paid the time she had to pay for the doping offence. Sanchez added Sharapova will be playing her first tournament at the Stuttgart Open after serving her doping ban and it will be interesting to see how she comes back, so that is what we need to look at.
In another development, Czech tennis player Barbora Strycova has made it clear that Maria Sharapova is not her friend. It is surprising to note that Barbora is having issues with the return of Sharapova as she herself was suspended for six months in 2013 after testing positive for a banned stimulant though she then claimed it was the result of a supplement she had been taking to boost her metabolism. In February 2013, Strycova was banned for six months after testing positive for the stimulant Sibutramine. The doping ban (backdated to 16 October 2012 until 15 April 2013) meant all results of the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist during the period of the ban were disqualified and she was asked to return all prizes won during that period.
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