Support the news

Maria Sharapova Has Only Herself To Blame

In this photo, Maria Sharapova speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, March 7, 2016. Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open. The ruling, announced Wednesday, June 8, 2016 can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
In this photo, Maria Sharapova speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles, Monday, March 7, 2016. Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open. The ruling, announced Wednesday, June 8, 2016 can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

If you discovered you had a magnesium deficiency, or maybe had an irregular echocardiogram, or perhaps a family history of diabetes, what would you do?

I know what I would do. I’d make sure I took a drug that was developed in Latvia, is frequently used in Russia and the Baltic countries, and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

That makes perfect sense, right?

That’s what tennis star Maria Sharapova did. And we’re supposed to believe that she took the medication, Mildronate, for her litany of unspecified medical issues instead of to enhance her performance on the tennis court?

A three-member tribunal didn’t buy it and neither should anyone else. In announcing a two-year suspension for Sharapova, the tribunal wrote, “the manner in which the medication was taken, its concealment from the anti-doping authorities, her failure to disclose it even to her own team, and the lack of any medical justification must inevitably lead to the conclusion that she took Mildronate for the purpose of enhancing her performance.”

Those five words -- "lack of any medical justification" -- pretty much blow a hole in Sharapova’s nose-lengthening yarn about taking the substance for all her supposed medical woes.

Those five words — “lack of any medical justification” — pretty much blow a hole in Sharapova’s nose-lengthening yarn about taking the substance for all her supposed medical woes. Has she really had heart issues all these years? If so, why not get something from, you know, a real heart doctor? Maybe she did. But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a drug that is not approved in the United States, which is where Sharapova has lived since 1994.

Sharapova started taking the drug in 2006 when she was 18. That’s 10 years of heart woes. Or is it a magnesium deficiency? Or is it a concern for diabetes?

She wouldn’t elaborate because it’s all hogwash. The only reason she didn’t get the maximum four-year suspension is because the tribunal concluded that she didn’t intentionally violate the doping regulations. She just missed the memo.

Mildronate, also known as meldonium, its active ingredient, is reputed to boost blood and oxygen flow. It was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances on Jan. 1. The Russian athletes were told in September of the change. Sharapova did her best Sergeant Schultz impersonation (“I know nothing. Nothing!") in explaining how she somehow missed the news and kept taking the medication.

You know, those pesky medical issues.

But the tribunal also pointed out that those same pesky issues tended to get treated on the days that Sharapova played matches or had training sessions. For instance, she took 500 milligrams of Mildronate before each of her five matches at the Australian Open. It discovered Sharapova had been taking the substance for the last three years without a prescription. It wrote that in the last three years, the only individuals who knew Sharapova was taking the drug were her father and her agent, neither of whom is a doctor. She never disclosed it on the forms. Her explanation was that the list would be too long if she wrote down, you know, everything and she said she thought the list was only for daily medications.

“She is the sole author of her own misfortune,’’ the tribunal concluded.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, tested positive for the substance in late January at the Australian Open, where she lost in the quarterfinals to Serena Williams. She is 2-19 lifetime against Williams. She announced in March that she had failed the test in a news conference intended to get ahead of the story. The tribunal, appointed by the International Tennis Federation, heard testimony last month over two days and then brought the hammer down this week.

That’s 10 years of heart woes. Or is it a magnesium deficiency? Or is it a concern for diabetes? She wouldn’t elaborate because it’s all hogwash.

ESPN tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe, echoing the findings of the tribunal, said there was “no doubt” in his mind “that Sharapova was taking this stuff to help her performance.” Jennifer Capriati tweeted, “I didn’t have a high-priced team of drs that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up.”

The ITF had asked for the maximum four years, which would have kept Sharapova out until she was 33. There was ample evidence that WADA had banned the drug, such as emails and providing a list of all prohibited substances to Sharapova’s coach. It said it was Sharapova’s responsibility to be up to speed on which substances are banned. McEnroe called her inability to do so “unacceptable.”

Left unsaid: How is she possibly going to deal with all those medical woes without Mildronate? Oh wait, she can still take it because she’s not going to be playing competitive tennis anytime soon.

Frankly, she’s lucky she only got two years.

Nonetheless, Sharapova quickly announced she would appeal the suspension, calling it “unfairly harsh.” There’s a possibility it could get reduced.

Where’s Deflate-gate Judge Richard Berman when you need him?

Related:

Peter May Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Peter May was a sports writer at the Boston Globe for nearly two decades. He now teaches journalism at Brandeis University and is an occasional contributor to the New York Times.

More…

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news