Tennis sensation and former world number one, Maria Sharapova has revealed that she failed drug tests at the Australian Open, held last month. The 28-year old Russian tested positive for meldonium, which is a substance banned by International Tennis Federation (ITF). Meldonium is one of the drugs that Sharapova had been taking in her usual medical doses since 2006.
“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it. A few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF and I found it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know”, confessed Sharapova. Her lawyer, John Haggerty was hopeful that pleading guilty and not having prior knowing about illegal medication.
Sharapova provided samples to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) which returned positive for meldonium. She said that the medicine was not on WADA’s prohibited medicine list for the past 10 years. However, on 1st January, this year the rules changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance. Maria said that she had received the changes in banned list of drugs but had not checked the link that had detailed list of prohibited items.
Andrew Castle, BBC tennis commentator commented Sharapova’s drug failure as a “hammer blow to the sport”.
Following the news break on drug failure, sponsors of Maria – Nike and Tag Heuer have cut ties with the tennis player. Spokesperson of Tag Heuer said that the previous contract had expired on 31st December and new deal was being negotiated which has been taken off the table. Porsche which signed a three year deal with Sharapova has also suspended promotional work with the player.