Maria Sharapova has received a two-year suspension for doping and the Russian tennis star, the highest paid woman in professional sports, has gotten off easy.
Of course, Sharapova and her legal representatives don't see it that way. Shortly after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) made its announcement, the player she would appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration in Sport.
Sharapova, 29, she took "full responsibility" in March when she announced at a hastily called press conference in Los Angeles she had failed a drug test taken in January at the Australian Open.
The positive test was for the use of the heart medication meldonium, although the tennis player took the drug under a different name, mildronate. It boosts blood and oxygen flow. Sharapova detailed at her conference she took the drug under a physician's care for several reasons, including because of a family history of heart problems and diabetes. The tennis player also had irregular electrocardiogram test results.
Ban could have been double
The ITF, which had could have issued a four-year band, determined a two-year penalty was appropriate because Sharapova admitted her offense. The ITF's records indicate Sharapova continued to take the drug although her doctor's records ended three years ago. The tennis player said she received email updates on banned substances but had forgotten to view the contents.
The World Tennis Association said in a statement that players "at all times need to be aware of the rules and to comply."
Sharapova was provisionally suspended in March. She had hoped to the cleared to compete in the Summers Olympics in August in Rio de Janeiro.
But it's hard to understand exactly what Sharapova was thinking. She accepted responsibility for her actions, but now that doesn't seem to apply when her sentence has been determined. If she were the first athlete to test positive and claim ignorance, her reasoning might warrant consideration. But she's not. And she's not even the 100th athlete who's admitted or not admitted guilt, but who when found guilty has vehemently complained when the decision was announced.
With her fame and fortune, Sharapova had the responsibility to know if the drugs she was taking were legal or not. Some of Sharapova's sponsors have remained loyal during the player's predicament. Tag Heuer, the watch manufacturer, and American Express have not renewed endorsement contracts with the five-time grand slam tournament winner. And now Sharapova will likely lose more endorsement revenue. And now she's complaining.
If the tennis player is true to her word, she will accept responsibility for her actions. She should accept her suspension, learn from it and move on, whether it means returning to professional tennis or not.