World Anti-Doping Agency Lays Groundwork for Reinstating Maria Sharapova
by Jeremy Davis | April 13th, 2016, 2:12 pm

Those in the sports policing community that touted the doping ban on Maria Sharapova showing that “no one is above the law” are now sputtering in disbelief.
On Wednesday the World Anti-Doping Agency said provisional suspensions can be lifted on athletes that have tested positive for meldonium if a hearing panel can find an athlete took meldonium before it was banned on Jan. 1, then later tested positive.

This comes in the wake of 172 athletes, many Russian, who have tested positive for the drug since it was banned for 2016.

In a statement, WADA outlined that athletes could have taken meldonium in late 2015, and still had it in their systems when tested in January 2016, as Sharapova was.

Sharapova claimed she was taking the drug, which its manufacturer says has performance-enhancing abilities (then said it didn’t) for various reasons, including magnesium deficiency and to ward off diabetes. Maybe from eating too much of her own “Sugarpova”-marketed candy and chocolates.

Sharapova’s lawyer was all over the decision.

“The fact that WADA felt compelled to issue this unusual statement now is proof of how poorly they handled issues relating to Meldonium in 2015,” said John Haggerty, Sharapova’s attorney, in a statement. “Given the fact that scores of athletes have tested positive for taking what previously was a legal product, it’s clear WADA did not handle this properly last year and they’re trying to make up for it now…This notice should have been widely distributed in 2015, when it would have made a difference in the lives of many athletes.”

Sharapova has admitted not reading the doping update e-mail, saying she made a “huge mistake,” while the same time on her website writing that WADA was at fault for burying information. She is awaiting her drug hearing which is expected in May or June.

Sharapova for her part would not say how often she took the drug or when she last took it.

It’s an interesting backtracking from WADA.

1) Create a loophole for athlete
2) Let athlete walk through it

Look for Sharapova and the other high-profile athletes that have tested positive to further lawyer-up. And by the way the wind is blowing, look for Sharapova to be back on the court by the Olympics this summer.

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7 Comments for World Anti-Doping Agency Lays Groundwork for Reinstating Maria Sharapova

chrisford1 Says:

WADA and ITF on Viktor Troicki = “Even though he was totally clean on both tests, he broke the rules. Ignorance of rules is no excuse. He is lucky we showed mercy and only gave him a 1 year ban and we didn’t hammer his friend Djokovic more for speaking out.”

WADA and ITF on Maria Sharapova – “Russia is a pretty big and important country, even though for all purposes and intents Sharapova is an American that barely speaks beginning Russian. There is a lot of Oligarch money flitting around , too. Sure, she might have broke a rule from ignorance, but ignorance an be excused for someone who is the face of Woman’s tennis and who has given so much to woman’s tennis & its marketing machine. And given so many trophies to Serena. She is lucky we are moving fast and getting conditions set up for her return to the Olympics. It is wrong to hurt her and Russia over a silly rule…”

Ruby Says:

It’s not about Sharapova; it’s about the science. WADA has to operate on science or the whole thing is a sham.

Unfortunately, they failed to do the proper work as to how long meldonium stays in the human system. Their bad. Once they have worked out the testing, they can reinstate the ban.

I’m sure this will be spun on tennis sites as being merely a fix for Sharapova’s woes (which will continue to be huge, regardless of whether she is reinstated or not), but it really has to be done like this. The fundaments of doping control are proper testing. If they don’t have that, the entire system will collapse.

MMT Says:

Ruby: If WADA is putting the cart before the horse on meldonium, it calls into question the legitimacy of any new PED added to their list. I have a blogpost where I detail the failure of tennis’ doping controls to demonstrate logic and a genuine concern for catching cheaters, rather than people who simply fail to comply. There is a difference between the two, in opinion, and tennis in the past, and it seems WADA now, are either not concerned with it, or in many ways incompetent to deal with it.

Believe me, I’m no fan of Sharapova in particular, but the convenient admission on the lack of proper research and understanding of meldonium calls into question the same process used to arrive at any of the PEDs on the list similarly lacking sufficient research. I wouldn’t assume that meldonium is the only one, but it’s the only one they’re admitting there is a lack of research.

They may have an issue if those punished for other PEDs added with similarly insufficient research, decide to bring a suit against them. But my guess is they are willing to accept this risk due to the financial boon to the ITF and IOC Sharapova’s participation in tennis would entail.

BBB Says:

Ruby, it can both be about the flawed process, AND about Sharapova. That is, in the absence of someone with her fame and resources testing positive, they might not second guess themselves as they are doing now.

Gregoire Gentil Says:

“find an athlete took Meldonium before it was banned on Jan. 1, then later tested positive” How are they going to do that and proof it’s true?

What a total joke!

And if Sharapova didn’t get the Meldonium memo as she admitted, then she was still taking the drug in January 2016…

Gregoire Gentil Says:

“Grindeks — which manufactures meldonium under its trade name, Mildronate — said it has a half-life of between four and six hours but “its terminal elimination from the body may last for several months” depending on a variety of factors. That could include the dosage amount as well as duration of use.”

Hey, Maria, better to stop right now taking it for the Olympics drug tests! ;-)

Tom Says:

There is a tremendous lack of clear thinking about this issue.

It is really simple. If Sharapova last took the drug in 2015 she should be cleared. If she took it in 2016 she should be banned. The problem is that either case would be hard to prove.

That she had been taking it for years before it was banned, that she did not see the eMail, that she did not realise it had an alternative name, , all are irrelevant.

Was she taking it for medical or performance enhancing reasons? When the science has been done on how long it remains n the system the actual amount found in the failed test should establish the approximate dose.

As for WADA it is a dreadful organisation. There are banned drugs that have no conceivable performance enhancing effect. They are enforcing morals and national prohibitions rather than looking purely at whether the drugs either enhance the performance, harm health, or both.

Cannabis is banned during competition for CHESS players. How absurd, have you ever tried to play chess when you are stoned?

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