Five time Grand Slam champion and former world number 1, Maria Sharapova has been provisionally suspended after failing a drug test at the Australian Open. She tested positive for meldonium, a substance she had been taking for the past 10 years but was added to the banned list only this year.
In a press conference Sharapova said, “I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it. “I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down. I let my sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply. For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received a letter from the ITF [International Tennis Federation] I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know.”
Meldonium was added to the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Jan 1st 2016. Mildronate, is used in many Eastern European countries and helps people with serious heart and circulatory diseases. Meldonium was banned because it boosts oxygen supply, endurance and metabolism. Ukrainian biathletes Artem Tyshchenko and Olga Abramova as well, Ethiopian-born runners Abeba Aregawi and Endeshaw Negesse Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, and Olympic gold medallist figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova have all tested positive for the drug.
She is expected to be banned by 4 years but her attorney, John Haggerty said “extremely mitigating circumstances” could help reduce the sentence.
Sportswear giant Nike, a company she endorses announced they would suspend ties with the star. Sharapova who turns 29 next month has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world for the past 11 years, with an estimated 26 million pounds from tennis alone.