Maria Sharapova called a press conference yesterday and surprised everyone by announcing that she had failed a drug test. She has been taking a banned substance called meldonium for nearly a decade, apparently to ward off any possibility of her becoming diabetic (there is a history of the disease in her family).
Most people thought she was about to announce her retirement so this was quite a bombshell. Except…it does not feel like much of a scandal, judging by the reaction. The second best tennis player in the world made a huge confession and yet there are so many excuses flying about in Sharapova’s defence it is laughable.
‘Oh, she didn’t mean to take it.’ How do you know? Were you there?
‘I hope she avoids a lengthy ban.’ She failed a drug test. What part of that sentence do you not understand?
People say that we should keep this news in perspective and see it in context because we do not have all the facts. Have you ever heard such nonsense greet a professional athlete damaging themselves and their sport? She announced this to the world and you want us to keep it in perspective and show sympathy like she is the victim?
Another thing that crossed my mind is why was Sharapova allowed to announce this and not the Word Anti Doping Agency (WADA)? Why was she given the power to do things her way? When other athletes from various sports have been shown to have failed a drugs test, it is usually announced by WADA or splashed across the media as an exclusive before the Agency have time to think, so what happened here? She was in this year’s Australian Open final, which she lost to Serena Williams. She failed the test immediately after the final. Now we all know damn well that if Serena had failed a test, all this reservation and rationality would be in very short supply. In fact, many commentators, pundits and members of the public would be rubbing their hands with glee if this had happened to her, but I digress.
I didn’t see or hear all this sympathy for other players in similar circumstances. Sharapova has been criticised for her actions, but 98% of people have ended their sentences with ‘but she made an honest mistake.’ Yes, an honest mistake that carried on for ten years. At what point does something still qualify as a ‘mistake’? Enlighten me.
She hopes to be allowed to return to tennis one day and I have no doubt she will. Although some of her sponsors such as Nike and Tag Heuer have ceased supporting her in the wake of this bombshell, Sharapova will come back. After all, the benefit of the doubt has been afforded to her so much in the past 24 hours that I am sure she will be welcomed back with open arms and this ‘honest mistake’ will be swept under the carpet. How depressing.