MONTREAL: Maria Sharapova has been described as “reckless beyond description” by Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency over her failed drugs test at the Australian Open.
Sharapova said on that she had failed a test for meldonium, a substance which was only outlawed by WADA from January 1.
The Russian tennis star claimed she had been taking meldonium for 10 years to deal with health issues, such as an irregular heartbeat and a history of diabetes in her family.
Initial sympathy for Sharapova fell away sharply as more information emerged about the regular use of meldonium by east European athletes and the fact that WADA issued five warnings from last September to all sports authorities and major competitors.
It had been added to the WADA banned list because of “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.”
Pound is one of the world’s leading experts in Russian attitudes after leading the investigation into systemic doping by its track and field competitors.
The Canadian said he could not understand how Sharapova had blundered, given the high stakes involved, both professionally and financially.
In a BBC interview he said: “Running a $30m business depends on you staying eligible to play tennis. You are taking something on a list, which you have known about for four months. I am sorry, that is a big mistake. Of course she should have known.
“She is taking something that is not generally permitted in her country of residence [the United States] for medical purposes, so she says, so there must be a doctor following this.”
Sharapova, 28, waived her right to a second sample test. She could be suspended by the International Tennis Federation for up to four years.
Explaining the procedure when a drug is added to the banned list, Pound said: “Any time there is a change to the list, notice is given on September 30 prior to the change. You have October, November, December to get off what you are doing.
“All the tennis players were given notification of it and she has a medical team somewhere. That is reckless beyond description.”