Matt Brown: Few people will miss Maria Sharapova

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Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years. Photos / AP
Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years. Photos / AP

Outside of the WTA Tour officials and its sponsors, few people will miss Maria Sharapova.

As a competitor there were few tougher, hardnosed, determined, but the Meldonium saga leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

I am somewhat surprised but pleased the Russian has received a two year ban backdated to the 26th of January, the day she failed the test at the Australian Open.

Chatting to WADA Director General David Howman last month, he indicated they would have been comfortable with a 12 month ban.

Meldonium was legal during most of the time Sharapova used it. However it was on the WADA watch list for a year before becoming prohibited.

It's emerged, Sharapova, her dad, and her agent were the only people who knew she had been taking the drug for more than a decade, a drug prescribed by her family doctor in Moscow and not available in the USA where she lives.

Why keep the news that she had taken the drug to treat diabetes and low magnesium so secret? Sharapova changed doctors in 2013 and she failed to disclose her use of the drug to medical practitioners.

It also emerged she was taking the substance before matches, five times at the Australian Open, and throughout her career. Does anyone really believe it was used for any other purpose than to boost energy levels or aid recovery?

If Sharapova really believed she needed to take the drug for medical reasons, why did she dot disclose it to her team and to the authorities? Why did she not apply for a exemption?

Throughout her career Sharapova has been meticulous, business like and always appeared in control, further reason why her 'mistake' is so hard to accept.

She has been described by her fellow pros as a 'Diva' unpopular in the locker room and apparently has few if any friends on tour.

I first watched her live at Wimbledon in 2004 where as a 17 she old she beat Serena Williams for the title. She was a far cry from the athlete she became as fame and fortune took over. I interviewed her on her only appearance in Auckland at the ASB Classic three years ago and found her cold, not engaging and clock watching for the 10 minute slot to end.

The International Tennis Federation had pushed for a four year ban for the Russian, but the lesser ban was imposed because the Tribunal couldn't prove she intentionally violated anti-doping rules.

It's still strong enough and signals the sport is serious about catching and punishing drugs treats. Sharapova may well come back to top level tennis but with the emergence of the likes of French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, the women's game is in a good enough place without her.

- Radio Sport

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