As a casual observer of professional #Tennis, I watch Wimbledon or the U.S. Open when Maria Sharapova plays, particularly when she's in a final. Her beauty, strength, graciousness, respect for opponents and overall athleticism is something to behold.
Sharapova is the antithesis of every reason why I don't watch women's tennis when Serena Williams plays.
But now comes the announcement Sharapova has tested positive for a newly banned substance, meldonium. The five-time grand slam event winner said she's taken the drug she knew as mildronate for 10 years. It was prescribed by her family physician to deal with an irregular heartbeat and her family's history of diabetes. The positive test occurred during her recent play in the Australian Open where she lost to Williams in the quarterfinals.
The World Anti-Doping Agency placed the drug on the banned substance list effective Jan. 1, 2016 because there was evidence athletes could use it with "the intention of enhancing performance." Sharapova was informed about the changes in the banned substance list last December via an email link she said she didn't open.
In her press conference March 7, which many believed she called to announce her retirement because of lingering injuries, Sharapova, 28, instead straight-forwardly told her story. She said she didn't know the drug had been banned. She said she's let down her fans and family and the sport of tennis. She said she doesn't want to end her career via what is now a provisional suspension of undetermined length and consequences.
Sharapova latest athlete in drugs in sport debacle
But what should be made of the latest in the ongoing debacle of drugs in sport?
Sharapova is reportedly the wealthiest woman in tennis. She hasn't won as often as Williams, but her beauty has resulted in lucrative contracts with many international companies.
Because Sharapova stood in front of worldwide cameras and explained herself, is there a chance she could be the exception rather than the rule? Could she have simply made a mistake? And, if so, should it make a difference?
Sharapova's case is not the same, but it has one similarity to the suspension several years of cyclist Tyler Hamilton. Like Sharapova, Hamilton was easy to like. He was Huckleberry Finn on a bike. He won the 2004 Olympic time trial gold medal, finished second in the Tour of Italy and fourth in the Tour de France. He denied doping for several years with several excuses, some laughable. He finally admitted to doping but only after a federal supeona.
Sharapova didn't deny anything. She said she took the drug, but didn't know it was banned.
If Sharapova's case was the first in sport with plausible extenuating circumstances, it might be easier to consider her explanation. But it's not. It's not the 100th case, either.
I wanted to believe Tyler Hamilton. He's a good guy, an athlete you wouldn't mind having as a neighbor. But he lied. Like Hamilton, Sharapova is responsible for what medications she took and she knows why she took them. Nice people lie. Pretty people lie.
Sharapova was good for tennis, and I'd like to believe her, like I believed Hamilton. But I don't. #Celebrities