Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, as well as many other sport stars, could end up with no suspension for the use of the drug Meldonium after an announcement made by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) today.
WADA today announced that, under certain conditions, they would not look to punish athletes, allowing these athletes to return to their respective sports; there is a chance that Sharapova could be one of these athletes.
What are WADA’s conditions? Why have they come about?
In their statement today, WADA announced that, following the high prevalence of positive tests for Meldonium, that they had conducted further tests on the drug.
These tests revealed that Meldonium can remain in a person’s system for several months after use, meaning that many athletes may have unwittingly been caught out in tests since the January 1st.
In response to this, WADA announced that anyone who had tested positive for Meldonium but had less than 1mg of the drug in their system would automatically receive amnesty and will be allowed to return to competition. This is unlikely to help Sharapova; her original statement implies that she had been taking Meldonium this year, and she would almost certainly have a higher reading than this.
However, Sharapova may benefit from a further clause in WADA’s statement. WADA also announced that the suspensions could be lifted for any athletes who tested positive before March 1st and had a level of Meldonium between 1mg and 15mg in their system.
Sharapova’s test certainly came before March 1st and her test sample could well fit in between the limits WADA are allowing, though her admission of taking Meldonium this year could well mean she will be investigated; however, her admission of guilt, her correct documentation, and a sample between the limits will probably decrease the length of any sentence she may get.
Sharapova’s lawyers slam WADA
Since the announcement today, Sharapova’s attorney, John Haggerty, heavily criticized WADA in a statement released shortly after through IMG.
Haggerty accused WADA of handling the issue of Meldonium “poorly,” and said that the new rules announced in their statement today were trying to make up for mistakes that they made last year.
Furthermore, Haggerty stated that WADA should have notified players in a better and more efficient way about the impending ban on Meldonium than they did, claiming that it would have “made a difference to the lives of many athletes.”
Olympic boss still holds Rio hopes for Sharapova
The president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, has been a strong supporter of Sharapova and, before today’s announcement by WADA, had supported the former world number one for a spot at the Olympics.
Sharapova became the first women to be Russia’s flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremony in London, winning a silver medal in the competition, and Tarpischev responded to a question about her chances of playing in Rio by saying, “We really hope that Sharapova will still be allowed to take part in the Olympic Games.”
Tarpischev also previously stated that he believed that Sharapova’s hearing could be in June, though he is yet to respond to the events of today.