Maria Sharapova has 'no excuses' for missing five warnings about meldonium ban

Maria Sharapova signs a poster before launching a TAG Heuer watch in 2006.
REUTERS

Maria Sharapova signs a poster before launching a TAG Heuer watch in 2006.

Maria Sharapova's management team says the tennis star "makes no excuses" for "missing" five warnings that meldonium was about to be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Sharapova announced this week that she tested positive for meldonium at this year's Australian Open soon after the drug was put on Wada's prohibited list on January 1.

The Times of London reported that all tennis players were warned five times in total last year that the substance was due to be banned.

World Anti-Doping Agency former president Dick Pound has lambasted Sharapova for her stupidity.
MICHAEL DALDER/REUTERS

World Anti-Doping Agency former president Dick Pound has lambasted Sharapova for her stupidity.

Sharapova's camp released a statement to the New York Times, which read: "Whether it was one notice of some kind or more than one, Maria has already acknowledged she should have known. She makes no excuses for missing it."

Meanwhile, former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound has taken both the Russian track and field federation and embattled tennis player Maria Sharapova to task at an anti-doping summit in London.

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Pound had no sympathy for the 28-year-old, saying at the summit on Thursday (NZ time) she had been careless in the extreme.

"No, there is no excuse," Pound said. "This is a woman who won her first Wimbledon title 12 years ago, she is in a sport which is known to have drug problems, she knows she is going to be tested."

"If you are running a US$30 million [NZ$44m] a year sole proprietorship, I'm sorry you damn well make sure that you don't do anything that makes you ineligible."

"How stupid can you be? What was she thinking of and her advisers?

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"If you're taking medicine, surely you or someone else around you checks if it's on the list. It's not that difficult for one of her medical team to look and go 'this is a problem.'"

Pound said as far as he was aware Sharapova had not applied for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for meldonium, a product not available in the US where she lives but common in Russia.

He also said her positive test should serve as a warning to all tennis players.

"I think this would wake me up," Pound said. 

"If you have an IQ higher than room temperature you should stop [using it]. There is a test for it and you'll be bounced."

Sharapova has lost several sponsors in recent days, including Nike, TAG Heuer and Porsche. She faces a possible four-year ban from tennis.

Pound also suggested tennis authorities had been aware that many players were using the drug - a claim rejected by the ITF.

"Clearly within the tennis circles they were aware that a lot of players were using it, so there must be something in it," Pound said.

The ITF, which will provisionally ban former world No 1 Sharapova from this weekend, issued a statement in response to Pound's comments.

"The monitoring of substances is undertaken by Wada, and so tennis was not aware of the prevalence of meldonium use in 2015 [or before], prior to its addition to the Prohibited List.

"The ITF did not refer meldonium to the Wada list committee," it said.

Pound, who headed up an 11-month independent Wada investigation into the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF), also said on Wednesday (NZT Thursday) that Russia was simply "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" in the aftermath of the report that showed state-sponsored doping and led to a provisional ban of ARAF by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

"My guess is Russia may not make it back for Rio. The IAAF and Wada are not going to risk their reputations by rolling over and playing dead," Pound said.

- Reuters with Tribune New Service

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