Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Maria Sharapova to be Suspended From Tennis

The latest athlete caught up in a doping scandal is Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova, currently ranked #7 in the world by the World Tennis Association and the highest-paid female athlete for the past eleven years. She earned more than $29 million last year, most of it from endorsements.

Apparently Ms. Sharapova tested positive at the Australian Open tennis tournament for a banned substance called meldronium, also known as mildronate. Meldronium is approved in Russia and the nearby Baltic countries for the treatment of ischemia (an inadequate supply of oxygen to the heart, due to a reduced blood flow). Its main use is for patients with angina or heart failure, but apparently it improves blood flow enough that it also improves athletic performance, or at least that's what athletes think. It was banned last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after a 2015 study showed that 17% of Russian athletes, and just over 2% of athletes worldwide, were using it. It is not available in the U.S or Europe.

Ms. Sharapova claims that she's been using the drug since 2006 for "several health issues I was having in 2006", and then just failed to check the list of banned substances in 2015 when meldronium was added to the list.  Really?  You be the judge.

Ms. Sharapova faces a possible suspension from tennis competition of up to four years. Her sponsors are watching the situation closely; several of them (Nike, Porsche, and Tag Heuer) have already suspended their relationships with her. It would be sad if this is how her distinguished career ends.

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