In some news from the world of sports…in Tennis…Russian player Maria Sharapova shocked the world last week by revealing that she had failed a drug test during the Australian Open earlier this year. This year’s Australian Open grabbed a lot of headlines after investigative reports claimed there was widespread match-fixing in the tournament with players willingly throwing in matches. This claim was quickly dismissed by the tournament organizers who insisted that the sport was clean.
In a press conference held in Los Angeles last week, Sharapova confessed to using a medication known as Meldonium which has recently been banned by the World Doping Agency. Meldonium is usually prescribed by doctors for patients dealing with magnesium deficiency. Sharapova also confessed to using the drug for more than a decade. The star player added that she didn’t bother to open an e-mail from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) about the ban notification; an excuse perceived by many as frivolous.
Sharapova faces a lengthy suspension ranging up to 4 years along with a hefty fine. While some have called Sharapova’s confessions a brave move, others have labelled it as a smart public relations exercise. In fact many journalists who were invited for the hastily-called press meet thought the Russian player was using the platform to perhaps announce her retirement from the sport.
Sharapova is currently ranked number 7 in the world and hasn’t won a Grand Slam tournament in the past two years. Critics point out that despite WADA issuing multiple notifications about the proposed ban on meldonium, it’s baffling Sharapova was blissfully ignorant about the same.
Sharapova is a global brand in herself and is the face of many high profile endorsements like Porsche, Nike among others. Some of her sponsors like Nike have already distanced themselves from the star and have decided not to renew her contract.
Sharapova is likely to present her side of the case during a hearing in May before the International Tennis Federation. The Federation is likely to hand her a short suspension in order to maintain its credibility.
Sharapova is known to be one of the most-organized professional players on tour and a businesswoman with a successful candy line. She also doesn’t have many friends on the professional circuit and prefers being aloof most of the time. She is also considered as a role model for many young girls aspiring for a career in Tennis thanks to her rags-to-riches story. At the tender age of 6, Sharapova and her father moved to Florida with meagre savings of $700 and without knowing how to speak English, all in order to boost her Tennis career. Forbes has named her the highest paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years. According to the magazine, Sharapova earned US$285 mn including prize money since she turned pro in 2001.
However it is hard to believe she missed the notifications on the proposed ban on meldonium for 5 successive times! Sharapova might not stop playing tennis altogether, but the drug test failure will definitely cast a shadow over her professional career.