In stunning news, Maria Sharapova announced today in Los Angeles that she failed a drug test after her loss at the Australian Open to Serena Williams on January 26. Sharapova received notice of the offense from the ITF last Wednesday on March 2.
March Sharapova had been taking the drug meldonium (or mildronate) since 2006 for various health issues, but the 28-year-old, she admitted, failed to examine an email from tennis officials on December 22 outlining changes in the banned list which since included meldonium.
Sharapova put the blame on herself for not reading on the changes. She is now awaiting ruling from the ITF on any suspension and penalties. Per rules, a first doping offense of this nature could carry up to a 4-year suspension.
“I failed the test and I take full responsibility for it,” Sharapova said. “For the past 10 years, I have been given a medicine called Mildronate by my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter, I found out that it also has another name of Meldonium, which I did not know.
“It’s very important for you to understand that for 10 years, this medicine was not on WADA’s ban list, and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years.
“Throughout my long career, I have been very open and honest about many things, and I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day, and I made a huge mistake,” Sharapova said. “I let my fans down, and this sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four and that I love so deeply.
“I know that with this, I face consequences, and I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope that I will be given another chance to play this game.”
Sharapova and her team will now go through the doping process for the next few weeks and months trying to get any suspension reduced.
“I am very saddened to hear this news about Maria,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “Maria is a leader and I have always known her to be a woman of great integrity. Nevertheless, as Maria acknowledged, it is every player’s responsibility to know what they put in their body and to know if it is permissible. This matter is now in the hands of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and its standard procedures. The WTA will support the decisions reached through this process.”
Sharapova added that she withdrew from Indian Wells not because of the doping violation but because of her forearm injury.
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