NEW YORK, March 8: Maria Sharapova on Tuesday sent the tennis fraternity into a spin by announcing that she failed a dope test at the Australian Open and was provisiolly suspended — she thereafter lost two of her plum sponsors while a third suspended promotions with her. The 28-year-old Russian star revealed that the drug, Meldonium, which had been prescribed for a pre-existing condition for up to a decade, was added to a banned substance list only on this January 1, and she had “not known”.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned the drug effective January 1. Sharapova, the World No.7, said she didn’t notice that the drug was banned by the WADA. “For 10 years this medicine was not on the banned list, and I had been legally taking it,” Sharapova said in Los Angeles.
The Intertiol Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Tuesday she would be provisiolly banned from March 12. The usual ban for first-time offenders is two years. The failed drug test came on January 26 — after Sharapova lost to Sere Williams in the quarter-fils. n More on page 16