Pam Shriver predicts Maria Sharapova to escape maximum ban for failed drugs test

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Former US tennis star Pam Shriver has predicted that Maria Sharapova will escape a maximum four-year ban after failing a drugs test.

Sharapova revealed last week she had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

She has been provisionally suspended and the matter is now in the hands of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme, but Shriver is not expecting the 28-year-old Russian to be hit with the heaviest possible sanction.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme, she said: "To me, it could go anywhere from nine months to two years. I think the four-year (ban) would be way overdone.

"Certainly, given her record of never failing a test before, I'm sure the lawyers and everybody are going to provide enough strong evidence that she did not take this medication as a performance-enhancer.

"But you know what? It's out there, it's one of the main lines when you read about the medication, that it enhances your capacity to exercise, so most athletes who read that, right away they would look at it and go, 'That's a performance-enhancer'.

"The other thing is you just kind of wonder at any point, does somebody on the team or does Maria read that and say, 'Mmm... One of the side-effects, or one of the primary things that this medication does is it enhances my ability to exercise'.

"Right there is at the heart of what a performance-enhancing drug is. It's something that makes you able to do what we do physically more than the other person artificially."

Sharapova revealed during a sensational press conference that she had taken the medication, which was only added to the banned list in January this year, throughout her career because of a family history of diabetes and an irregular heartbeat.

However, Shriver admitted her medical condition had come as news to the tennis world.

She said: "We all have our ear to the ground, especially on top players. When Venus Williams wasn't playing well, there was a lot of rumours, like 'Why is she so listless on the court?', and then it came out that she had an auto-immune disorder called Sjogren's Syndrome.

"Okay, that answered a lot of the questions of the previous few years. Nobody has ever heard about Maria suffering from any kind of a heart ailment."

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