Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova announced today that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, and has been suspended from tennis.
“A few days ago I got a letter from the [International Tennis Federation] that I had failed a drug test at the Australian Open,” Sharapova said at a press conference today.
The International Tennis Federation announced a provisional suspension for Sharapova starting March 12th.
The drug at fault here is Mildronate, medication Sharapova says she has been taking for 10 years before it was put on the federation’s ban list. She claims she was unaware the drug was on the list, which was updated last January.
Admitting she received an email with a link to the updated list back on the 22nd December last year, she claims she “did not click that link.”
Sharapova asserts the drug was prescribed to her for “several health issues I was having back in 2006,” including repeatedly catching the flu, magnesium deficiency, irregular EKG results, and the first signs of diabetes, which runs in her family she says.
“It made me healthy and that’s why I continued to take it,” she added.
Having suffered a a number of shoulder injuries, and only playing four events in the last eight months, many suspected the 28 year old five-time Grand Slam winner was announcing her retirement when she called the press conference.
“If I was ever going to announce a retirement it would not be in a downtown LA hotel with a fairly ugly carpet,” she joked, while also saying in a somber tone, ““I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”
Preceding news of the suspension, Sharapova announced she will be taking a hiatus from competition, in the meantime working with the federation to discuss the next steps.
“I’ve let my fans down, I let the sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply,” she said.
Sky News reports, Women’s Tennis Association chairman Steve Simon said Sharapova had always been a “woman of great integrity” but added, “It is every player’s responsibility to know what they put in their body and to know what is permissible.”
Currently the 7th ranked player on the WTA tour, Sharapova has been an indomitable force in the world of tennis, and has been the highest-paid female athlete for over a decade.