Maria Sharapova
(Getty Images)

Yesterday Maria Sharapova announced that she would be having a press conference, but it was unsure what it was about. Much of the speculation was perhaps that she would be retiring or taking a step back from the game as she has been dealing with injuries.

However, when the time came for her announcement, Sharapova revealed that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

In this era it has not been uncommon for professional athletes to fail drug tests for any number of performance enhancing drugs or even just common drugs such as marijuana. This has been seen in many of the major sports, especially the NFL and MLB. It has been a more rare occurrence in the world of tennis, whether it be because it isn’t there, or because it is a smaller viewing field.

This may not seem like a huge deal because of the amount we are used to seeing these kinds of announcements in major sports now days. Sharapova’s announcement, in theory, is near the tennis equivalent of Lance Armstrong’s situation.

By no means is that saying that this is the same level, nor will it create the same uproar. The comparison is drawn due to the fact that Sharapova is a highly known and respected player. Sharapova is currently ranked 7th in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Anytime we hear that an athlete has failed a test, our natural reaction is essentially stigmatic. That has just how our culture has started to handle these situations and announcements as they have become more and more prevalent.

This Sharapova issue is a little different though. In no way does this mean that the end result is justified, however there needs to be varying levels in how we react to different approaches to these failed tests.

There are many positive things that can be taken from Sharapova making this announcement.

Sharapova did not need to hold this press conference. She could have simply let the process play out and we would have found out sometime down the road of the failed test and that there would be a suspension or ban put on Sharapova.

By holding the press conference, Sharapova was able to take charge of this situation before any media outlets could misconstrue any information that was either published or leaked.

Sharapova made everyone aware of what the drug that she failed the test for actually was. That drug is meldonium or mildronate. According to Sharapova she has been taking this Latvian based drug product since 2006. This drug is commonly used to treat heart conditions.

The use that Sharapova had for it was based off of animal tested, clinical trials. Sharapova said that her family has a history of diabetes, and the testing on rats showed that it had an anti-diabetic effect on their metabolism.

Many people will freak out that she has been using this banned drug for 10 years. It is more important to note that this drug was just put on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned substance list as of January 1 of this year.

Sharapova admitted that she did not open the e-mail sent out by the WADA in late December to see that the drug was now banned. Obviously this is a fault on her end, and she will have to face up to the consequences. Sharapova is aware of that and is willing to take whatever punishment is handed down.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will take a look at this whole situation, and base their punishment on what they feel is just. The general terms of punishment could range anywhere from nine months to potentially two years. Nike has already put their sponsorship of Sharapova on a hiatus until all of this plays out.

By bringing her story to the forefront and issuing this statement and apology, Sharapova may spare herself from the longer end of the ban.

 

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