Tennis: Maria Sharapova tries rich girl defence

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova has been handed a two year suspension after a failed drug test. Photo / Getty Images
Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova has been handed a two year suspension after a failed drug test. Photo / Getty Images

The boss of the doping agency that took down Maria Sharapova is gloating after the Russian tennis star was suspended two years for testing positive for meldonium.

Craig Reedie, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said Monday he took more pride in the ban because Sharapova's salary exceeds the budget of WADA.

"For me the only satisfactory element in Madame Sharapova's case was that in one year she can earn more money than the whole of WADA's budget put together," Reedie said, via The Telegraph.

Reedie said WADA was "punching above its weight" on a budget of less than $30 million a year.

In 2015, Sharapova raked in $29.7 million, according to Forbes.

Sharapova's camp wasn't too thrilled with the apparent boast, and fired back with three caustic lines.

"The statement made today by the WADA president is unprofessional. Justice, whether in the eyes of WADA or a court, must be blind, including being blind to a player's earnings," said a statement attributed to Sharapova's attorney John Haggerty.

"Mr. Reedie owes an apology to Maria and to all successful tennis players unless he wants fans to think WADA has different standards for players depending on their ranking and earnings."

29-year-old Sharapova has vowed to contest her ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Reedie indicated he would be prepared to back "precedent-setting action" against Russia following suggestions the country's entire team could be banned from August's Olympic Games in Rio.

The founding president of WADA, Dick Pound, told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that such a ban was "not impossible".

Friday saw the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) uphold an international ban on Russia's track and field competitors first imposed in November after a WADA team led by veteran Canadian sports administrator Pound revealed state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics.

The Russia team is now ruled out of all events in athletics in Rio, although Russian athletes training outside the country can apply to compete as neutrals at the August 5-21 event in Brazil.

The IAAF's decision was endorsed by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday.
But there are fears that the scale of Russia's breaking of doping rules extend beyond just track and field, with swimming said to be another sport that has broken doping rules.

In May, WADA set up a new investigation under Professor Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor and longstanding member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), into allegations of state-backed doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian lab now living in Los Angeles, also gave an interview to the New York Times last month in which he said he switched tainted urine samples for clean ones at the doping lab used for the Sochi Games, with help from people he believed to be officers of the Russian security services.

McLaren, who is due to deliver his full report by July 15, said in a preliminary statement on Friday he had evidence that Russia's Ministry of Sport was involved in instructing a Moscow laboratory to "not report positive sample results over the period before, during and after" the 2013 World Athletics Championships.

"In the coming weeks, we will learn the outcome of our independent McLaren investigation," Reedie, speaking at the WADA symposium at London's Lord's Cricket Ground, said Monday.

"If his report indicates transgressions of any kind, then there will be a precedent-setting opportunity to demonstrate our collective commitment to cleaning up sport," added the veteran British sports administrator, who reiterated WADA's support for the IAAF ban on Russia.

"The world will be watching." Reedie, asked by AFP if he agreed with Pound that a blanket ban on Russia was possible, replied: "I think Dick called that the 'nuclear option'.

"I can't answer that question because I don't have full information and I await to see what happens at the Olympic summit (in Lausanne) tomorrow (Tuesday), when those authorities who do have that power to make those decisions will presumably be discussing them."

Reedie, pressed on what he meant by "precedent-setting action", added: "WADA does not have the power to determine which sports do what.

"If McLaren produces detailed corroborative evidence that goes beyond athletics, we are concerned... We will respond firmly and effectively."

Meanwhile Reedie repeated his calls for increased WADA funding from national governments and also suggested that, for the first time, broadcasters and media rights-holders might want to contribute to the budget.

Reedie added that 0.5 per cent of the worldwide sports television rights market would produce a WADA budget of $175 million and that it was in the rights-holders' interest to promote clean sport.

Russian President Vladmir Putin has labelled the IAAF's ban on his country's athletes as "unjust and unfair".

But IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who won Olympic 1500 metres gold and 800m silver for Great Britain at the 1980 Moscow Games, wrote in Britain's Sunday Telegraph: "We have not prevented clean athletes from Russia from competing, rather the Russian system has cataclysmically failed their clean athletes."


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