What was Maria Sharapova thinking?

s-l225Tennis star’s positive doping test comes as a real shock.

I guess I kinda sorta feel bad for Maria Sharapova. She has been a pleasure to watch on the court for a number of years now—eleven, I think—ever since first showing up and taking Wimbledon at age 17. Since then, she’s had injuries, as tall athletes tend to, that have sidelined her from time to time—and in the past couple of years she’s been completely stymied by Serena Williams. Still, she’s played consistently high level tennis for most of her career, and won her share, almost, of grand slams.

So today’s acknowledgement that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, and is being “suspended” by tennis authorities, did come as a shock. While a gritty competitor, she has tried to maintain a positive public persona, which has largely worked, since she’s been the world’s highest paid female athlete for several years now. Now, though, sponsors are now dropping her like a hot potato. So you have to wonder who dropped the ball here.

Yes, she took the drug for a number of years—ten, in fact—and the drug in question, called meldonium, was only added to banned list in January. Well, ok. But this is the world’s highest paid female athlete, who made something like $30 million in 2015 alone, who didn’t read the email that she got last fall that announced that the doping agency was going to ban meldonium, starting January 2016. OK, I guess, on that one too. She’s a busy lady. And she’s Russian, where athletes have a pretty casual approach to ingesting just about anything that could be termed “performance enhancing.”

Here’s what I don’t get. This drug had been legal, and then it wasn’t. OK, that I get. What I don’t get is that THE WORLD’S HIGHEST PAID FEMALE ATHLETE APPARENTLY DOESN’T HAVE SOMEONE ON HER PRESUMABLY WELL-PAID STAFF TO KEEP AN EYE ON THE DRUGS THAT SHE’S TAKING JUST IN CASE ONE OF THEM WAS GOING TO BE BANNED. Really? No one at all saw this one coming? Jeez.

The above stamp showing Sharapova and some other tennis worthies is from Niger. I couldn’t possibly tell you why.

Categories: Health, Sports

4 replies »

  1. Two troubling elements to this, Wuf – how was she allowed to take meldonium for TEN YEARS for a “heart problem” – didn’t WTA/ITF live in terror that she’d drop dead on court during a GS match when tennis has its max audience? Tennis has been carped at for not policing for doping for a loooong time now – Andre’s self-admitted meth issue and Hingis’s coke thing have gotten press, but note that Raffa (whom I love) and Joker (whom I loathe) have both had doping issues swept under the rug….it’s a sport where this may not be the only revelation….

    • I agree, there’s a lot more to come, but only if tennis officials decide to go after the issue aggressively, which so far they have not. Sharapova’s woes are self-inflicted, as far as I can tell from what we know right now. That may change, of course.

  2. I appreciate her taking blame and standing up in a press conference, but not terribly impressed by what she said.

    I’m with Jim–using a drug for ten years that’s typically prescribed for six months? Little doubt she was using it for its off label performance benefit and not its intended use, so the intent was there.

    Also, “I forgot to read my email” is the single lamest excuse since “the dog ate my homework.” A typical top tennis pro has an traveling entourage of a half dozen folks–manager, hitting partner, coach, nutritionist, trainer, personal assistant, etc. Plus her part time staff at her various home bases–masseuse, chiro, doctor, etc. Are we seriously to believe that a pro reads her own email, and ignores one from WADA about changes to the banned substance list? That’s like not reading an email from the IRS that says URGENT!

    Unfortunately, I think it more likely that she either didn’t think the test was good enough yet or assumed that tennis would protect her as it has so many of its stars.

  3. And to answer your rhetorical question, she was thinking, “I want to win so I can make $30 million a year in endorsements. If I get caught, I lose some of my endorsements. If I start losing regularly, I lose all of them.”