Tennis former world number one Maria Sharapova has announced that she had failed a drugs test at the Australian open, and had been provisionally banned from the 12th of March by the International Tennis Federation (ITF)
The five-time grand slam winner, 28 tested positive for meldonium, a substance that she has been taking legally for the past 10 years but under name of mildronate.
“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” said Sharapova, who won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004.
“A few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF, I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know,” she added.
The drug was reportedly prescribed to her on a regular basis after her doctor did “an extensive battery of tests to determine what medical conditions were causing her to be sick frequently”.
She had “abnormal electrocardiogram readings” and “some diabetes indicators”, which prompted the doctor to recommend medication, including meldonium.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) placed the drug on their watchlist for over a year and added it to the banned list on 1 January. This after their observation of its presence in many anti-doping samples and found out that it possesses performance-enhancing attributes.
Sharapova admitted that Wada had sent her an email on 22 December that informs athletes regarding changes to the banned list, but she did not “click” on the link that provides the details.
According to Forbes, the Russian national has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world in each of the past 11 years, with career earnings from tennis alone amounting to almost £26m.
However, her sponsors including Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche had announced that they were either “cutting ties” or “postponing planned activities” with the athlete almost immediately after the announcement.