Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Sharapova reveals failed drug test

Published:Tuesday | March 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Five-time Grand Slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles yesterday.

LOS ANGELES (AP):

Tennis star Maria Sharapova says she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

The five-time major champion took full responsibility for her mistake when she made the announcement at a news conference yesterday in Los Angeles.

"I know that with this, I face consequences," Sharapova said. "I don't want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."

The 28-year-old Sharapova said she tested positive for meldonium, which she said she has been taking for 10 years for numerous health issues. Meldonium, which is thought to be widely used by Russian athletes, became a banned substance this year under the WADA code and Sharapova claimed she didn't notice its addition to the banned list.

"I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job and I made a huge mistake," Sharapova said. "I let my fans down. I let the sport down that I've been playing since the age of four, that I love so deeply."

Boosts exercise capacity

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is a Latvian-manufactured drug popular for fighting heart disease in former Soviet Union countries. Meldonium treats ischemia, or lack of blood flow, but can be taken in large doses as a performance enhancer that increases exercise capacity.

WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press that any athlete found guilty of using meldonium would normally face a one-year suspension.

The ITF's anti-doping programme announced in a statement that Sharapova will be provisionally suspended starting this weekend while her case is examined.

Sharapova said she tested positive in an in-competition test at the Australian Open, where she lost to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals on January 26. Sharapova hasn't played since then while recovering from a forearm injury and she had already dropped out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which begins this week.

Several athletes have tested positive for meldonium since it was banned in January, including two Ukrainian biathletes and Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov. Earlier yesterday, Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova, a European champion ice dancer, told local media she had tested positive for meldonium.

Sharapova said she began taking meldonium for "several health issues I had back in 2006," including a magnesium deficiency, regular influenza, "irregular" heart test results and early indications of diabetes, of which she has a family history. Sharapova and her attorney declined to say where Sharapova was put on the drug or where she gets it now, citing the ongoing process with the ITF.

"I have to take full responsibility for it," Sharapova said. "It's my body, and I'm responsible for what I put into it."

Reedie said he was unaware of Sharapova's case until she announced it at the news conference.

"I understand the drug is sold particularly in Eastern Europe," he told the AP in a telephone interview. "You can almost get it over the counter. For stronger versions, you might need a prescription. There has been a whole rash of these cases since the first of January when it appeared on the banned list."