It’s all taking a turn — the wrong one — for Maria Sharapova.
After beginning her travails this week with a broad assumption of innocence, reports from various British newspapers say the five-time Grand Slam champion and highest-paid female athlete in the world was warned five times in late-2015 that a drug she was taking, meldonium, was set to be on the banned list starting in January.
It’s a devastating piece of news for Sharapova’s defense, which centered on the fact that her missing the announcement of the ban was a simple, one-time mistake that could happen to anybody. In her press conference on Monday, which many, including myself, initially thought was a bold, stand-up, nothing-to-hide admission, Sharapova said that she had received, and skipped, just one phone call notifying her of the new rules. Maybe there was only one phone call, but evidently there were four warnings in other forms. Sharapova’s either having a selective memory, flat-out lying or being lied to by her team, whose response to the news was by playing semantics. Primary debates don’t have as much spin.
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, other parts of her defense are beginning to fall apart too. Sharapova’s lawyers talk about how her low dose of meldonium isn’t associated with taking advantage of the PED effects, but don’t specify how much she was actually taking. They’ve spoken of irregular EKGs and family history but have been mum on the near-universal opinion of doctors that it’s odd, if not purely negligent, she was taking the drug for 10 years when its manufacturer says it should run its course in 4-6 weeks.
Team Sharapova said she knew the drug by another name and acted as if this was some sort of big deal without realizing that it shouldn’t have mattered whether Sharapova knew the name of the banned drug or not. She didn’t read the banned list anyway, right?
Nor has anyone mentioned whether Sharapova, who was taking this drug for health reasons, allegedly, had ever written it down on the forms athletes receive during drug tests. Don’t you think that’d be a piece of information that would have been shared if true?
(MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
And, again, there’s the five-time warning Sharapova and other athletes received. Former WADA president Dick Pound summed up the generally accepted take on Sharapova’s meldonium use for the 25 days in January prior to the positive test:
Sharapova is anything but reckless. Her team is top-notch and the idea that no one thought to check any sort of list, a list which comes out annually and is previewed more than an Avengers movie, is next-to-impossible to believe. Now it’s clear why Sharapova struck first with her surprise press conference — hers is a defense heavy on excuses but light on explanations.