Tennis Uber Star Maria Sharapova walked fashionably late into an LA hotel today and announced to the world that she had failed a drugs test at the Australian Open.
She said she took responsibility for that, and then proceeded to run away as fast as she could from her mea culpa.
Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a Latvian pharmaceutical used to treat angina and myocardial ischemia, a condition which leads to a lack of blood flow to the heart and a reduction in oxygen to the body. The drug is widely available throughout Russia but is not available in the United States where Sharapova is based. When combined with other compounds it is claimed meldonium can aid exercise capacity.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned the substance in December 2015 saying they had evidence that athletes were using the drug with the intention of enhancing performance.
Sharapova claimed today she had been using Meldonium, also known as Mildronate, since 2006 to combat a magnesium deficiency and an irregular EKG. She says it was first prescribed by her family doctor. It is not known whether Sharapova suffered from angina or from Myocardial Ischemia.
Sharapova's medical record is not the real issue. The real issue is Sharapova's unbelievable arrogance. How else can you explain this statement, made by the five-time Grand Slam winner yesterday:
"I received an email on 22 December from Wada about the changes happening to the banned list and you can see prohibited items, and I didn't click on that link."
"I didn't click on that link." Why not? Surely a professional athlete whose very livelihood depends upon knowing what substances and supplements can and cannot be taken would click on a link that provides that very information.
And if Sharapova couldn't find the time to read the information in between instagramming her gym sessions and heading to the Oscars, or advertising Tag Heuer watches, or Evian Water, or Nike, or Chanel; or promoting Supergoop, or Sugarpova, or her Russian Ministry of Sport Medal of Honour (and all of that in the last month, by the way) then surely - surely - she had someone in her camp who may have thought to check it out.
How can you be that blasé about the one thing that could see you lose it all?
Of course, Sharapova doesn't want to lose it all, which is why she fronted, in a long-sleeved black dress selected, no doubt, to represent her grief over what she termed to be a mistake. There was no 'Glamapova' here, just a 28-year old tennis player telling a room full of people, and the world, that "it is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA's banned list."
Thanks Maria. If only you had one person to say that it is very important YOU understand what is currently on WADA's banned list. Allow me be that person, in lieu of anyone else inside the Sharapova Inc. machine.
The question is what does tennis do now? The sport already proved to the world during the Australian Open that it is happy to watch smoke billowing from centre court while telling us all there is no fire. Allegations of match fixing at the very top levels of the game were shot down with the age-old establishment challenge: prove it.
Sharapova said today that "I know with this I face consequences" which is a line that could only be taken seriously had it not been followed with the guilt-trippingly beautiful, "I don't want to end my career this way."
But wait! There's more! If you really loved her you would be moved by the innocently glorious "I really hope to be given another chance to play this game."
I hope so, too. After a ban that reflects the contempt shown for WADA, for the game, and for every other player on tour who took the time to click on a link.
"I know many of you thought I would be retiring today," said Sharapova to close, "but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet."
Ah Maria! So blasé to the end! Don't worry, though, ugly carpet is only for contrition. Even when it's not genuine.
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