LOS ANGELES: In yet another twist to the Russian doping saga, tennis star Maria Sharapova has announced she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open.
However, on January 1 this year it was added to the list, with Sharapova claiming she was unaware of the development. The Russian confirmed that she accepts that she has failed a drugs test.
The banned substance that Sharapova has tested positive for is called meldonium, a blood flow drug that was added to World anti-doping list at the start of this year. It is used medically to improve blood flow, improves exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure and can also give an advantage to healthy athletes.
She is not the only athlete caught out by the rule change. The long-distance Swedish runner, Abeba Aregawi, who won gold at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and 2014 World Indoor Championships in Sopot, tested positive for the now-banned substance and has withdrawn from competition for the foreseeable future.
Meldonium is believed to have been used regularly in the past by Russian athletes.
Sharapova told a news conference which she had called yesterday: “I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way and I hope that will have a chance to play again.
“I received a letter on December 22 from the World Anti-Doping Agency for the changes and where the tests would be with a link to the changes for 2016 and I did not look at that list.”
When asked if she knew what the consequences are, she answered: “I do not, this is very new to me. I only received the letter a few days ago and I will be working with the ITF.
“I have to take full responsibility for it, it’s my body and I have to be responsible for what I put in my body.”
Reading from a written statement that lasted for nearly three minutes, Sharapova said she was given the substance by her family doctor to deal with sickness, a deficiency in magnesium, and her family’s history of diabetes.
“I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues at the time, I was getting sick a lot of the time, I had deficiency in my magnesium, I had irregularities in my scans and I had signs of diabetes.”
Sharapova’s last Grand Slam final appearance was in Australia last year where she was beaten in straight sets by Serena Williams.
She will lose her A$400,000 prize money for the Australian event.
Last year Forbes declared Sharapova “the most marketable female athlete on the planet”, and the 28-year-old has a number of lucrative commercial partnerships and business ventures.
She is rated one of the most marketable athletes in the world with a $22m-a-year income from the likes of Evian, Head, Canon, Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer and several fashion houses.
Since 2007, her career has included working as a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme, modelling for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and creating her own confectionary line, named Sugarpova.
The International Tennis Federation’s tennis anti-doping programme (TADP) can confirm the following:
– On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova provided an anti-doping sample to the TADP in association with her participation in the 2016 Australian Open.
– That sample was analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory, which returned a positive for meldonium, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Code and, therefore also the TADP.
– In accordance with Article 8.1.1 of the TADP, Ms Sharapova was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
– Ms Sharapova has accepted the finding of meldonium in her sample collected on 26 January.
– As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms Sharapova will be provisionally suspended.