Maria Sharapova will be able to play tennis again in April 2017.
This sounds like a long layoff, however, it was projected to be a lot longer had not the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced her suspension to 15 months from its initial two year ban.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) in correspondence with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) had found during a test that Sharapova had been using a prescribed drug called melodonium, which had been banned and labeled a performance enhancer by the WADA, on January 1.
What is causing all of the controversy is that for one, Sharapova and her team were not made aware of the fact that melodonium had been put on the WADA’s list of banned substances in 2016, although it had been on the “Watch List” in 2015. Also, Sharapova had allegedly failed a drug test for the same drug five times while it was on the watch list, but also wasn’t told that information because those type of results were supposed to be confidential.
Now, the initial problem with this is that there seems to be a clear lack of communication between the ITF, WADA and the players. Sharapova and her team commented on the suspension reduction and the lack of communication.
Via Darren Rovell/ESPN: “I think what it has certainly done is brought awareness that there are flaws in the system,” Sharapova said.
Another possible flaw in the system that Sharapova wants to point out is the fact that melodonium might not even be a performance-enhancing drug. The reason that Sharapova was prescribed the drug in the first place is that irregularities had appeared on her electrocardiogram, and melodonium is designed to open the blood vessels and better serve the heart. The chemist who designed the drug, Ivars Kalvins, has recently tried to convince the WADA that it should not be on the banned substance list for this reason, but to no avail.
It’s hard to say that both parties are at fault here because that’s simply not the case.
Sharapova had been prescribed by a doctor a drug used to help her irregular heart symptoms, which can obviously be life threatening. Not only was she prescribed the drug, but she is also making the claims that it’s not even a performance-enhancer any way and that the WADA has not done the proper, extensive research necessary to know this and decide that it should be a banned substance. This claim is backed up by the actual creator of the medicine, as we saw above, who tried to dissuade the WADA from putting on the 2017 list of banned substances.
As a result of all the miscommunication between the WADA and ITF, Sharapova’s legacy is in question, a legacy she has clearly worked her entire 29-year-old life to build and maintain. Not only this, but she will still have to miss another six months of competitive Women’s Tennis Association action, which will put her season in question.
As a professional sports establishment, the ITF needs to be better at protecting its players and giving them proper due process, which means telling them vital information such as rule changes. As a professional anti-drug establishment, the WADA needs to be better at gaining 100 percent factuality that any drug that they put on any banned substance list is definitely a performance-enhancer.
Due to the fact that neither did their job in this situation, one of tennis’ biggest stars is suffering for it.
Do you think that Sharapova still deserves to be suspended? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3