Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Sharapova will struggle without 'miracle drug'


What an extraordinary press conference, one which will live long in the memory and not only because of the carpet at a "downtown Los Angeles Hotel".

Maria Sharapova's almost certain removal from the world's tennis courts for up to four years on a drug violation is a great moment in sport for anyone - hand up here - who is quite happy with the lovely sound of ball on racquet without perfectly timed vocal histrionics attached.

Sharapova has double handedly put me off women's tennis because of her determination to scream like a wounded chainsaw on every point.

There are a few bad tennis screamers who need bringing into line, but she is by far the worst. No matter how many people complained, she thought it was her right. Well goodbye lady - you'll be missed the way people pine for parking tickets.

I do sympathise with her most strongly on one point however. Hotel carpets can be extraordinarily bad, or "fairly ugly" as she put it.

The LA Hotel she chose for her demure act had a shocker, something that might have been designed by one of those old Soviet architects on a bad acid trip. It was matched, most oddly, with light pink drapes, and completing the trifecta was Sharapova, casually dressed in black as a sign of sombre respect for the sport she was dragging through this technicolour dung heap.

The whole shebang in LA has raised an assortment of interesting points, including the revelation that Soviet troops were whizzing around on the same stamina-enhancing drug during the Afghanistan invasion.

Having watched some fly-on-the-Humvee accounts of the Americans' behaviour later in that same land, modern warfare can appear as a muscled-up NFL game laced with "roid rage".

Back to Sharapova and her effort to oh so politely tip-toe out of any suggestion she took Mel-whatitsname for performance enhancing purposes, legal or not legal.

She was at pains to point out that the offending drug had been prescribed by her family doctor, and we all know how America loves family values and especially the ones they get on TV.

Gathering every last bit of medical evidence she could possibly scrape up, she put her need for drugs down to the ghastly combination of the flu, irregular EKG (heart) test results, and some vague reference to family diabetes all discovered about 10 years ago. This is clearly a drug that cures an extraordinarily wide range of problems.

She "wanted" to let us know about the drug test, which I translated to mean she wanted to get in first with a doe-eyed performance of contrition. She was "given" the medicine, rather than took it.

Most importantly, the drug has only just been added to sport's list of outlawed substances (although she was taking it on purely medical grounds of course).

And last but not least, if she was indeed announcing her retirement as the blindsided press pack had initially imagined, she wouldn't have done it at a poxy Los Angeles hotel which, presumably, was only good enough for some lousy drug test revelation of comparatively little importance.

As the press conference cleared and the next sales convention moved in, you could only be gripped with fear over this wonderful sportswoman's future.

Sharapova hopes to return to tennis but she has little chance of a successful comeback, given that without Mel-whatitsname she will battle the flu, constant sickness, the threat of diabetes and some heart issues, with a spot of magnesium deficiency thrown in. She'll hardly have the energy to scream anymore. And if Mel-whatsitsname wasn't the cure-all, why mention the problems that it doesn't solve.

So, should we believe any of it? Absolutely. That carpet was awful.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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