The sporting world has been hit by another doping scandal. Maria Sharapova, former top-ranked female tennis player in the world, has admitted in a press conference that she tested positive for a recently banned substance at the Australian Open.
Meldonium, the drug at the centre of this doping scandal
The substance found in Sharapova’s system is called meldonium, which was banned on January 1 this year. The 28-year-old Russian tennis superstar admits to taking meldonium since 2006. She claims it was prescribed to her by her doctor for health issues, specifically irregular heartbeat and a history of diabetes in her family.
Meldonium, however, was banned starting this year because it was found to have performance-enhancing properties. The substance increases blood flow, which, in turn, increases an athlete’s capacity for exercise. Manufactured in Latvia, meldonium is only distributed in Russia and certain Baltic countries. It also does not have Food and Drug Administration approval in the US, or authorisation in the rest of Europe.
Consequently, Sharapova has been suspended from active competition from March 12. She is also facing a ban from the sport.
Sad day for Maria Sharapova and for sports
Sharapova’s confession brought back memories of Lance Armstrong’s doping admission all those years ago. That was a sad day for sports, and so is this one with Sharapova. Sharapova is without doubt one of the best female tennis players of all time. She is also blessed with model-like looks, but unlike fellow Russian Anna Kournikova, she did not dwell much on her celebrity status and instead honed her game to perfection to become world number one. Nevertheless, she still capitalised on her looks to become the face of several brands, including Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer. Now she stands to lose them all with this doping scandal.
The most unfortunate part of this whole saga is that it puts a blight on all of Sharapova’s achievements on the court. Every tournament she has won from 2006 will be put into question. Fans, including this writer, are utterly heartbroken.
Still, there is no doubt that suspending Sharapova is the appropriate move. Doping should never be tolerated among athletes, the high-profile ones included. This matter also needs to be looked into more closely, because there is no way only the athlete herself could have known about her years of taking meldonium.