2004 Wimbledon winner and five-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova is the golden girl of international tennis and the victim of an injustice.
Earlier this year the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) informed the Russian superstar that she had failed a drug test taken after the Australian Open quarter-final against Serena Williams.
The 28-year-old had tested positive for Meldonium which is a banned substance used for enhancing athlete’s performance - giving increased stamina and faster recovery times. Well, at least it is now.
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But in reality, Meldonium is a heart drug developed to treat diabetes and various heart-related diseases which it successfully does by increasing the circulation to the heart. Taking such a legal drug would be, in the words of tennis legend and commentator John McEnroe, a “no brainer.”
Prior to 2016, Meldonium was not banned and it was widely used in Eastern Europe and especially in Russia, but as of January this year WADA unilaterally changed the rules and since then almost 200 top athletes and sports stars have been caught in a trap.
If the athletes stop taking the medicine they could die. If they do not stop taking the medicine they could be banned from their sport for several years. The choice is clear; lose your life, or lose your livelihood.
Fortunately, Sharapova has stood up to the bullies and refused to be cowed. In the game of ‘chicken’ between a global brand superstar and faceless bland bureaucrats, it is WADA who have blinked first.
Last week’s announcement that: “If the anti-doping organization finds that the athlete could not reasonably have known or suspected that the substance would still be present in his/her body on or after 1 January 2016, then a finding of no fault or negligence may be made,” amounts to an amnesty for sports stars found with Meldonium in their system in the early weeks of 2016, therefore, Sharapova could be free to play tennis again.
It's a decision that has been welcomed by Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko who said: "The Russian Sports Ministry supports and welcomes the decision made by WADA because it has showed a willingness to understand the situation, rather than stick to the rulebook."
The Russian – who has been provisionally banned since March 12 – is due for a meeting with the International Tennis Federation on April 21 at which her fate is expected to be determined.
Game, set and match to common sense.
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