Maria Sharapova shocked the tennis scene when she announced that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open that took place last January. But she stated in a press conference that she will take “full responsibility” for it and will face the consequences head on.
“I wanted to let you know that a few days ago I received a letter from the ITF that I have failed the drug test at the Australian Open. I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it. It is important for me to come out and speak about this…because throughout my long career I have been very open and honest about many things. I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day and I made a huge mistake,” Sharapova said.
She added that by failing the drug test she also let her fans down and the sports down as well. Sharapova mentioned in detail that since 2006 she has been taking a medicine Mildronat, which also known as Meldonium, and it was not at the start of the year that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) came out with a new list of banned drugs with Mildronat or Meldonium included in the list.
“For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine by my family doctor and a few days ago after receiving the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of Meldonium which I did not know. For 10 years it was not on WADA’s list and in 2016 the rules were changed and Meldonium was in the prohibited list which I did not know,” Sharapova explained.
She also noted that the drug was to address her health issues such as having flu every couple of months, having irregular EKGs and to address her diabetes, which she said run in her family line. She also dismiss speculation that he announcement was about her retirement and jokingly stated that she would have picked a better venue if indeed she was to retire.
“If I was going to announce my retirement, it wouldn’t be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet,” she added.
Sharapova made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open but lost to American Serena Williams. After the competition she would take a leave as she was still recovering from a left forearm injury.
ESPN reported that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has not specified what sanctions will be given to Sharapova after failing the drug test. However, her lawyer John Haggerty described the length of penalties that could include sanctions and years of being banned from playing the sport.
“When someone intentionally takes banned substance for performance enhancing purposes, there is a four-year ban,” he said. “If it is not done intentionally, the top end of the ban is two years. If there are mitigating circumstances — as I strongly believe there are here — there can be an even greater reduction, including eliminating sanctions.”
Meldonium (also known as Mildronate, THP, MET-88, Mildronāts or Quaterine) is a clinically used anti-ischemic drug that is currently manufactured and marketed by Grindeks, a pharmaceutical company based in Latvia. It is used in Lithuania and the Russian Federation but is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States. Meldonium can increase “physical work capabilities.”
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