At the beginning of March, well-known professional tennis player Maria Sharapova held a press conference at a hotel in Los Angeles, California. While many journalists and fans were expecting for Maria to announce her retirement – given the long list of recent setbacks caused by injuries – Sharapova stunned the entire world by announcing she had failed a drug test after the Australian Open.
Sharapova admitted she had been using a substance called ‘meldonium’ for the past 10 years. The substance was banned from professional tennis since January 1st 2016.
"It's very important for you to understand that for 10 years, this medicine was not on WADA's ban list, and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years."
Sharapova claims she had been using the medicine to help her fight some health issues that dated back to 2006. She claimed she was dealing with a lack of magnesium, irregular heartbeat and a family history of diabetes.
‘I made a huge mistake’ Sharapova admitted. ‘I let my fans down and this sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four and that I love so deeply’.
‘I know there will be consequences, but I don’t want to end my career this way’ the 5-time Grand Slam champion concluded.
Ivars Kalvins, the Latvian professor that invented the medicine, claims that the pill only prevents athletes from a meltdown and from suffering more injuries and has pointed out that under no circumstances is the medicine a performance enhancer. Professor Kalvins claims the decision to ban his pill from tennis was wrong and fears many athletes will have severe injuries as a result of this decision.
Numerous companies such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche have announce they have cut ties with Sharapova and claimed they will not renew their sponsorship deals.
Sharapova, the highest paid female athlete for the past years, is facing important financial losses.
Here is what the WADA had to say about Sharapova’s situation:
‘WADA is aware of the ongoing case. As is our normal process, and in order to protect the integrity of the case, WADA will refrain from commenting further until a decision has been issued by the ITF. Following that, WADA will review the reasons for the decision and subsequently decide whether or not to use its independent right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).’
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has not announced a verdict in this case, but close sources to the investigation claim that Sharapova will definitely receive a ban from tennis as a result of her actions.
In my view, this is wrong. I firmly believe that given Sharapova’s impeccable record and reputation up to this point, she should receive a lenient sentence and should not be banned. In addition, she had the courage and strength to publicly come forward and admit her wrongdoing, and that has to count for something.
Depriving tennis of this great athlete would be a huge mistake. It is my view that rather than having Sharapova banned for a long time from playing tennis, she should receive a community sentence and obliged, for instance, to teach children the great sport of tennis for a certain period of time (three, six months, 12 months – it will be up to the ITF to decide).
Such a decision will benefit more the world of tennis that a ban from the game.
PLEASE BEAR IN MIND that I am not necessarily a fan of Sharapova, but I feel that it would be a total injustice to have her banned from the game, hence this petition.
If you agree with me, please sign and share and urge the ITF to take our demands into account.