Maria Sharapova Meldonium Fallout: How Long Should She Be Banned?

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Russian professional tennis sensation Maria Sharapova is in hot water. On Monday (March 7th, 2016) Sharapova announced that she had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. This failed drug test occurred at the 2016 Australian Open which took place January 18-31 in Melbourne.

Meldonium is an anti-ischemic drug that was only recently declared a banned substance. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added meldonium to its forbidden list on January 1st of 2016.

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Maria Sharapova is proclaiming her use of meldonium to be an accident. While taking full responsibility for the test, Sharapova also stated that she had been ingesting meldonium for her health since 2006.

“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” stated Sharapova. Given meldonium by a family doctor, Maria Sharapova claims she knew this substance only as “mildronate.”
Sharapova’s former tennis coach Nick Bollettieri mentioned that her mistake was very honest, and went on to say,

“She said she took these for many, many years and then didn’t read the memorandum that came out. I don’t think that Maria Sharapova would continue doing something, especially being in the limelight, if there was something she knew about.”

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By Tuesday morning Nike, Porsche, and Tag Heuer had all severed ties with Sharapova. Expert doctors were also jumping on the anti-Sharapova bandwagon, chiming in that a healthy athlete would in no way need to take the banned substance meldonium.

In her detailed statement regarding the failed drug test, Maria Sharapova went on to say,

“I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. I take full responsibility for it. For the past ten years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know. It is very important for you to understand that for ten years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past ten years. But on January 1st [2016] the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known. I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having in 2006.”

According to Forbes, Maria Sharapova has been the highest earning female tennis player each of the last 11 years. She faces a stiff penalty, as much as a four year ban from Tennis. While some experts say a ban of this duration is unlikely to occur, there is a strong possibility that Sharapova may incur a one year penalty.

WADA president Craig Cheedie informed the Associated Press that an athlete testing positive for meldonium was likely to receive a one year ban from competition.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, mildronāts, Quaterine, MET-88, and THP, is a small-market cardiac drug which is often retailed online in Easter European countries as an anti-ischemia medication.

Athletes are known to use meldonium as a performance enhancer. A 2015 study by the journal Drug Testing and Analysis revealed that meldonium:

“Demonstrates an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions.”

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