Sharapova admits she failed drug test at Australian Open
MARIA Sharapova has revealed that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open earlier this year after testing positive for a substance that she has taken for the past 10 years that was added to the banned substances list on 1 January this year, with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) confirming that the 28-year-old will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March.
Sharapova tested positive to and admitted taking Meldonium, a blood flow drug that was added to World anti-doping list at the start of this year. It is used medically to improve blood flow, improves exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure and can also give an advantage to healthy athletes.
Speaking in a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday night, Sharapova was expected to announce her retirement from the sport, but instead she revealed that the ITF had informed her that she failed a drug test in Melbourne in January."I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open," said Sharapova. "I take full responsibility for it.
"For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know.
"It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada's banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years.
"But on January 1st the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known."
The Russian revealed that she first started taking meldounium when she was 16 years of age, before her maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004. The drug was given to her by a family-approved doctor, and up until the start of this year it was not illegal for her to take it.
"I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having in 2006," Sharapova continued.
"Throughout my long career I have been very open and honest about many things and I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day and I made a huge mistake.
"I let my fans down. I let the sport down I have been playing since the age of four and I love so deeply.
"I know with this I face consequences and I don't want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.
When asked if she knew what the consequences are, Sharapova answered: "I do not, this is very new to me. I only received the letter a few days ago and I will be working with the ITF.
"I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues at the time, I was getting sick a lot of the time, I had deficiency in my magnesium, I had irregularities in my scans and I had signs of diabetes."
Sharapova, 28, has not played since suffering a fourth round defeat by Serena Williams at the Australian Open in January, having struggled with a left forearm injury that forced her to withdraw from this month's BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in California last week.
Sharapova burst onto the scene back in 2004 when she defeated long-time adversary Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon women's singles at the age of just 17, having made her professional debut three years earlier and her Grand Slam bow at the 2003 Australian Open.
Further success would come at the US Open and French Open in 2006 and 2008 respectively, but she would have to wait until 2012 before completing a career Grand Slam after triumphing in the French Open final to ensure she would be remembered as one of the few to have won all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Sharapova added Olympic silver that year at London 2012 where she lost out in the final to Williams, and added a second victory at Roland Garros two years later that remains her most recent Grand Slam success.
However, Sharapova has also carved out a hugely successful career off the court that sees her stand as the highest paid female athlete since 2005. Sharapova has numerous endorsements and sponsorship deals as well as her own business ventures, which include the sweet company "Sugarpova" that she started in 2013 alongside candy veteran Jeff Rubin.