Maria Sharapova… honest or deliberate mistake
There was the luminous smile Sharapova wore on the medal stand after defeating Sara Errani of Italy at the French Open in 2012. She is five-time Grand Slam winner.
Then, there was the weeping, distraught face in the tennis world on Monday, when the Russian admitted she made a “huge mistake” by taking a banned performance-enhancing drug called meldonium.
The mind cannot conjure up an image of the triumphant Maria without also recalling the tainted Sharapova. From the podium to suspension, was one of the hardest falls in Russian sports history.
Sharapova is one of the most celebrated female athletes, not only in her native Russia, but also around the World. She carried the torch during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Sharapova has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world in each of the past 11 years, according to the Forbes list.
She is thought to be the world’s highest-paid female athlete due to endorsement deals and her extensive business ventures, including a high-profile candy line, Sugarpova. Forbes estimated her earnings at $29.5 million for 2015.
Sharapova, 28, revealed on Monday that she tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in January.
Sharapova’s failed drugs test was “reckless beyond description”, according to former World Anti-Doping Agency president, Dick Pound.
“Running a $30m business depends on you staying eligible to play tennis,” he told BBC Sport.
Pound cannot understand how Sharapova found herself in this situation, given the high stakes involved, both professionally and financially.
Although she has lived in the U.S. since childhood, Sharapova won a silver medal and served as Russia’s flag-bearer at the London Olympics in 2012.
The drug, known as meldonium or mildronate, is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, but it is prescribed elsewhere to help protect heart tissue by regulating metabolism.
It has also been used by neurological clinics to treat patients who have asthenia—an abnormal lack of energy.
The tennis world is weighing in on Sharapova.
The Russian admitted she tested positive for Meldonium, a drug recently banned by WADA, at the Australian Open and expects to face a significant ban from the WTA.
There have been some messages of support, with Sharapova’s great rival Serena Williams praising her courage in taking responsibility for her mistake.
Despite the pair having a rocky relationship, Serena said: “Most people were happy that she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year … It’s just taking the responsibility, which she was willing to do and ready to. I hope for the best for everyone in that situation,” Serena Williams said.
Sportswear giant Nike has suspended its relationship with the five-time Grand Slam winner, while watch manufacturer Tag Heuer has cut its ties.
German carmaker Porsche said it was “postponing planned activities” with Sharapova until the situation became clearer.
18-time Grand Slam winner, Chris Evert, says she is surprised by lack of support for Sharapova.
Evert, who won 18 grand slam singles titles, told ESPN: “Maria Sharapova has always isolated herself from the rest of the tennis world. She’s made that known, she can’t be friends with the players.
“I’m not seeing a lot of support from a lot of the players. I think everyone is being mum right now.
“Whether it’s shock or whether they don’t want to become involved or have an opinion about it, it’s sort of surprising that not a lot of players have shown their support for her.”
Sharapova has accepted a provisional suspension and will find out after a tribunal hearing in due course what sanction she faces.
The Russian admitted she received a link to the list of banned substances for 2016 in December but did not click on it.
Evert said: “It’s just incredulous to me because she has such a very comprehensive and a very professional team. For everybody in the tennis world, Maria Sharapova is the last person we’d expect this to happen to.
“To me, it’s a good warning to all the superstars out there that they mean serious business and that the sport is not protecting you if you’re bringing in money for the sport, if you’re bringing in TV ratings – it doesn’t matter who you are.”
But others have been less charitable. Three-time grand slam champion Jennifer Capriati wrote on Twitter: “I had to lose my career and never opted to cheat, no matter what. I had to throw in the towel and suffer.
“I didn’t have the 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.”
Sharapova signed a deal to be the face of the brand, which focuses on sun safety, in 2014 as well as becoming co-owner with founder Holly Thaggard.
Thaggard said in a statement: “While we are surprised and disheartened by Maria Sharapova’s recent announcement, we value our relationship with her as a co-owner of Supergoop! and ambassador for our common cause of conquering the epidemic of skin cancer.