Former Tennis World Number One, Maria Sharapova Tested Positive for Drug

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova says she tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said the five-time Grand Slam champion would be provisionally suspended from 12 March.

Also, Nike is halting its relationship with her until the investigation was complete.

“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” said Sharapova.

Sharapova has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world in each of the past 11 years, according to the Forbes list.

The tennis star claimed she had taken meldonium “for the past 10 years” after being given it by a “family doctor” but had known the drug as mildronate.

“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 said.

Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, told Sports Illustrated: “We think there is a laundry list of extremely mitigating circumstances that, once taken into consideration, would result in dramatically reducing any sanction that they might want to impose on Maria.”

Maria Sharapova speaks to the media announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conference today at the LA Hotel Downtown

According to the BBC, Sharapova provided the anti-doping sample in question on 26 January, the day she lost to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) analysed the sample and returned positive for meldonium.

Sharapova was subsequently charged on 2 March.

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

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

She added that Wada had sent her an email on 22 December informing her of changes to the banned list, but she had failed to “click” on the link that would have detailed the prohibited items.

Maria Sharapova in action

Sharapova shot to fame as a 17-year-old in 2004 when she won the Wimbledon.  According to Forbes, she has been the highest paid athlete in the world for the last 11 years.

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