Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sharapova's failed drug test adds to tennis' woes

Maria Sharapova said she was unaware that meldonium
was recently banned. 2014 photo by Paul Bauman
   Professional tennis has had about as good a year as the U.S. Post Office.
   Allegations of a match-fixing coverup involving unnamed top-50 players surfaced hours before the beginning of the Australian Open in January, legendary journalist Bud Collins died at 86 on Friday, and Maria Sharapova announced on Monday that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
   Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion and the world's highest-paid female athlete, said at a news conference in Los Angeles that she had tested positive for meldonium.
   The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned the substance this year after placing it on the monitoring list in 2015, The New York Times reported. Sharapova said she did not check an e-mail in December notifying her of the change.
   "I take full responsibility for it," said Sharapova, a former world No. 1 and the runner-up in the 2010 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
   Sharapova said her family doctor began prescribing meldonium in 2006 for several health issues, including frequent bouts of the flu.
   "I was getting sick very often," she said. "I had a deficiency in magnesium. I had irregular EKG results, and I had a family history of diabetes."
   Sharapova has played in only three tour events and the Fed Cup final in the last eight months because of injuries. She withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where she won the title in 2006 and 2013, last week with a left forearm injury.
   Women's qualifying in Indian Wells began on Monday, and the men's and women's finals are scheduled for March 20.
   Sharapova will be suspended provisionally Saturday pending a ruling in the case, The Times said. Sharapova, a 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Russian who will turn 29 in April, could receive no penalty or a suspension of up to four years.
   "I don't want to end my career this way," Sharapova confessed, "and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."
   Sharapova was the world's highest-paid female athlete for the 11th straight year in 2015 with earnings of $29.7 million, including $23 million from endorsements and appearances, according to Forbes magazine. She had deals with American Express, Avon, Evian, Head, Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer in 2015.
   After Sharapova's announcement, Nike suspended the relationship and Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer chose not to renew its contract, which ended on Dec. 31.
   Sharapova has played in the Bank of the West Classic three times, losing to Venus Williams in the 2009 quarterfinals, Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 final and eventual champion Serena Williams in the 2011 quarters.

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