Update: Maria Sharapova Receives Ban for Meldonium Use
Update: Maria Sharapova has officially been banned from professional tennis competitions for two years following her confession to using Meldonium.
The world of sports enthusiasts was shocked on Monday to find out tennis darling Maria Sharapova coming forth with a confession of drug use during a press conference which most anticipated as would be about her announcing her retirement. Instead, apologetic and sincere, Sharapova admitted to testing positive for Meldonium, a medication for heart patients which can be a performance enhancing drug if taken in excess. Maria claims that she did not know Meldonium had been moved to the banned list this season and that she only used it as prescribed by her doctor to treat symptoms consistent with pre-diabetes.
Beyond the Williams sisters, Sharapova is perhaps the most visible female tennis professional currently playing. She stands to lose multiple endorsement deals, including one Nike, with whom she has designed an apparel line. The company says it suspended that business relationship “while the investigation continues.” The results of said investigation could also see Sharapova banned from professional tennis, however her lawyers intend to seek the minimum penalty on the claim that Sharapova was both unaware of the change and using the drug as medically advised.
This seems like a lot of drama to be caused by a seemingly harmless heart medication, right? If Maria is to be believed, and her use of Meldonium was to treat heart issues she had which could be contributed to a pre-diabetic condition, what’s the big deal?
Well the problem lies in how Meldonium actually affects the body. It’s used in heart patients as a means of increasing blood flow. It is not approved for sale in the U.S., but it is available in Russia, Sharapova’s country of origin. In 2015 Meldonium was on the Monitoring List provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency which regulated approved and banned substances used by world-class athletes. As of January it was moved to the Banned List, which was emailed to all registered athletes; Sharapova admits to receiving the email but says she never reviewed the list.
The reason behind Meldonium’s move onto the banned list is simple: when used inappropriately, it can become a performance enhancing drug. The drug increases blood flow, which increases the oxygen supply to the muscles, in turn increasing one’s endurance. It is easy to see why Sharapova would be suspected of misuse, as her career has been plagued with injuries as of late and the boost would be beneficial.
Sharapova is not the only athlete to test positive of Meldonium since it’s banning, she just so happens to be the most publicly recognized. And her results also reflect negatively on Russia, as the country has been the epicenter of other sport related drama as of late. As it stands, Russian ice skater Ekaterina Bobrova tested positive for use of Meldonium during the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships, and the Russian track and field athletes have been suspended from international competitions and may not be allowed to attend the 2016 summer Olympics.
Pertaining why she came forward with this announcement prior to a final ruling by the International Tennis Federation, Sharapova had this to say:
“I thought it was very important for me to come out and speak about this in front of all of you, because throughout my long career, I have been very open and honest about many things. I made a huge mistake, and I’ve let my fans down. I’ve let this sport down that I have been playing since the age of 4 and that I love so deeply. I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play the game.”
Other athletes have come forward with comments regarding Sharapova’s test results, both in support and against her. Serena Williams, Sharapova’s opponent during the match in question, applauded her for being honest and forthcoming, while former heptathelete Kelly Sotherton criticized the tennis star, stating “I’m pretty sure if this was a track and field athlete they’d be getting a much rawer deal than Sharapova.”
Do you think Maria Sharapova should be banned from playing tennis after testing positive for Meldonium? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.