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Is this the end of Maria Sharapova’s fabled tennis career?

Maria Sharapova, Press Meet, Drug Test
The former World No. 1 and holder of a career Grand Slam, Sharapova tested positive for meldonium – a Latvian-made drug she had been taking to treat health issues for the past ten years.

When Maria Sharapova called for a press conference during a relatively lean period in the tennis calendar, rumours were rife than she was about to announce her retirement from the sport at the age of 28. However what came was even more shocking as she revealed she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open earlier this year.

The former World No. 1 and holder of a career Grand Slam, Sharapova tested positive for meldonium – a Latvian-made drug she had been taking to treat health issues for the past ten years.  However meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances in January 2016. Sharapova was mailed this updated list by WADA but she claimed not to have ‘clicked on it’. She has now been provisionally suspended from tennis since her announcement and faces a ban of up to four years.

But Sharapova loses a lot more than just time on the court. She has forfeited her US$ 400,000 prize money from the Australian Open and could have to return a lot more retrospectively. Global sports brand Nike, Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer and German car manufacturer Porsche have all distanced themselves from Sharapova, who is ambassador for those brands. For a woman who has been the highest-paid woman’s athlete for the past 11 years, this has got to sting.

The reaction from the tennis world was mixed. Former players Martina Navratilova and James Blake praised Sharapova’s handling of the situation, which seemed like an ‘honest mistake’. Three-time Slam champion Jennifer Capriati was a lot less forgiving, referencing her own injury-raddled career and called the Russian a cheat. Harsh.

The circumstances that surround the drug test and positive result suggest than Sharapova’s ban – and there will be one – will not exceed a year. She is too prized an asset to the sport to be suspended for what was, in effect, a question of misinformation as opposed to an attempt to deceive.

Sharapova, to her credit, maintained her endearing sense of humour at the press conferences. She acknowledged the retirement rumours that were swirling but said she would never call it quits in a ‘hotel with this fairly ugly carpet’.

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