Los Angeles: Five-time Grand Slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova said Monday she failed a dope test at the Australian Open, and isn’t sure what punishment she’ll face for her “huge mistake.”
The former world number one from Russia said a change in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list for 2016 led to an inadvertent violation, which has left her “provisionally suspended” by the International Tennis Federation.
Sharapova tested positive for Meldonium, a drug she said she had been taking since 2006 but one that was added to the banned list this year.
“I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it,” a sombre Sharapova said at a press conference at a downtown Los Angeles hotel.
“I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down. I let my sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply,” added Sharapova, her voice wavering.
“I know that 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.”
The ITF confirmed in a statement that the former world number one from Russia had tested positive on January 26 and had accepted the finding when she was notified on March 2.
“Ms. Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case,” the ITF said.
Sharapova said she was cooperating with the ITF and did not yet know the extent of the sanctions she would face.
Her attorney, John Haggerty, said the positive test could carry a ban of up to four years, but that mitigating circumstances could see a lesser penalty.
Shamil Tarpishchev, head of the Russian tennis federation, promptly said he believed Sharapova would still have a chance to play at the Rio Olympics in August.
“I believe it’s rubbish, nothing else,” TASS news agency quoted Tarpishchev as saying. “The athletes take the medicines, which their physiotherapists or doctors recommend them to take. I believe Sharapova will nevertheless play at the Olympics.
“However, we need to wait and see how the things will go on.”