Sharapova fails drug test at Australian Open

Published by Reuters

Maria Sharapova announces at a press conference that she failed a drug test at Australian Open 2016; Getty Images

Maria Sharapova has failed a drugs test at the Australian Open.

The former world No.1 told a news conference on Monday she had recently received a letter informing her she had failed a drugs test at the year’s first Grand Slam event in January.

Sharapova said she tested positive for meldonium and she did not look at a list of banned substances for 2016 that the World Anti-Doping Agency had sent last December.

“I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues going on at the time,” Sharapova told a news conference in Los Angeles.

“I was getting sick very often and I had a deficiency in magnesium and a family history of diabetes, and there were signs of diabetes.

“That is one of the medications, along with others, that I received.”

Sharapova, who took “full responsibility” for the failed test, said she has been taking the drug legally since the age of 16, but did not realise it had subsequently been banned.

“I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open,” said Sharapova. “I take full responsibility for it.

“For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know.

“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years.

“But on January 1st the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known.”

RELATED: The social media response to Maria Sharapova’s failed drugs test.

The 28-year-old Russian, a five-time Grand Slam champion, has not competed since she lost to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals and has struggled with a series of injuries in recent years.

According to the ITF official statement, Sharapova has been provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case.

The knowledge: Mildronate

  • The drug, which is also known as mildronate, is used to treat ischemia: a lack of blood flow to parts of the body.
  • The drug, developed in Latvia and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States, increases blood flow which improves exercise capacity in athletes.
  • WADA found “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.
  • The decision to add it to the banned list was approved on September 16, 2015, and it came into effect on January 1, 2016.
  • It is classed as an S4 substance under the WADA code, which addresses hormone and metabolic modulators.
  • A memo was sent out by Russia’s anti-doping agency last September informing them of the decision.
  • Sharapova says she has been taking the drug for 10 years after she was regularly falling ill, had a magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes.
  • Fellow Russian athlete and Olympic gold medallist figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova admitted to testing positive to the drug on Monday.
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