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Maria Sharapova’s excuse for failed drug test doesn’t hold up

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova announced at a Monday news conference that she failed a doping test at the Australian Open. (ROBYN BECKROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Give Maria Sharapova a sliver of credit.

When the tennis star announced Monday that she had tested positive for a banned substance, she didn’t say she was shocked that the substance had showed up in her system. That’s what most athletes who fail drug tests say these days. They’re the cats with feathers at their feet saying they have no idea what happened to the bird.

Sharapova admitted eating the bird – in this case, meldonium, a drug she said she used for physical ailments. But that’s where any sympathy for her ends.

Her excuse is that she didn’t know that the International Tennis Federation had banned the substance Jan. 1. The Times of London reports that Sharapova, like the rest of the players, had been warned at least five times before the ban was imposed. The All-Russia Athletic Federation announced Wednesday that it had warned athletes and coaches “on multiple occasions’’ last year about the impending ban.

In other words, Sharapova doesn’t have an excuse. That’s why she has had some of her endorsement deals suspended. The only thing worse than a cheater is a dumb cheater.

Meldonium allegedly helps oxygen intake and endurance, though the drug’s inventor insists it is not a performance-enhancing drug. It is used to combat ischemia, an inadequate blood supply to an organ, but especially the heart muscles.

Sharapova, who has won five Grand Slam tournaments and is the world’s wealthiest female athlete, admitted using the drug for 10 years for various health issues, including repeated cases of the flu. The Latvian company that makes meldonium says the drug is normally prescribed for four to six weeks. You don’t have to be a doctor to see that something’s not right there.

The Associated Press reports that meldonium was once common in the Soviet military. I’m sorry, but when I hear that, I’m not thinking good thoughts. I’m thinking East German swimmers, Soviet weightlifters and masseuses with deep voices and big forearms.

I’m thinking Sharapova thought she couldn’t do without meldonium.