Maria Sharapova Fails Drug Test

This past week, the tennis world that has largely escaped scandal in recent history was rocked by an announcement from superstar Maria Sharapova. In order to avoid another news source publishing information, Sharapova announced she had recently failed a drug test at the Australian Open, testing positive for meldonium. The five-time Grand Slam champion explained she has been taking the substance since 2006 for health issues, but as a result of a rules change regarding substance use on January 1, Sharapova’s drug test was not in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Sharapova’s news reverberated throughout the tennis world, and shocked many. While other professional sports such as baseball have seen substance abuse result in suspensions of many star players and cloud achievement, tennis has largely escaped the performance-enhancing drug period of professional sports.

Sharapova awaits an official announcement from the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), but many figures surrounding the sport have already voiced their opinions on the matter. While many agree with superstar Martina Navaratilova in saying what Sharapova did was an “honest mistake,” others have been harsher with their words. Notably, American star Jennifer Capriati, who saw her career end with a number of injuries, felt Sharapova’s failed drug test was unfair, and believes “if it’s all true every title should be stripped.”

While Capriati may be biased, considering she could have benefitted from

substances that would have prolonged her career, she does bring up a larger point.

Substance abuse, whether intentional or not, has no place in professional sports; however, what Capriati does not address is the change in the rules. Sharapova likely was unaware of the addition of meldonium to the list of banned substances, and her lack of knowledge comes at the blame of the team she has surrounded herself with. Sharapova’s team of agents, coaches and publicists with which she has surrounded herself should have made her aware of such a change, and the lack of oversight regarding her career is concerning. After many years on tour, the 28 year-old should not have to focus on the medication she can or cannot take and should simply focus on her play on the court.

Many of Sharapova’s sponsors have been quick to respond to the announcement, and have reacted to the impending investigation that will ensue. One of Sharapova’s biggest sponsors, Nike, has halted their relationship until the investigation is complete. Others, such as Evian, Tag Heuer, Porsche and Avon, have not yet announced whether they will alter their business relationship with the Russian athlete.

In the coming days, it will be interesting to see both the reaction of the WTA and fellow tennis players in response to a possible suspension. While I believe Sharapova did not do anything wrong, she must still receive a penalty that fits the crime. A suspension that bans her from participating in tournaments for three months will not only send a message to Sharapova but also to other players on tour.