Maria Sharapova Admits to Failing Drug Test at Australian Open in Press Conference
Maria Sharapova held a press conference this afternoon (March 7).
Despite early rumors of a retirement announcement to come from the event, the professional tennis player, ranked Top 10 by the Women's Tennis Association, used the opportunity to admit that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January.
The drug, called Meldonium, was banned as of January 1 of this year, an announcement she allegedly received, but ignored. "Meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known. I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having back in 2006. I was getting sick a lot," she said in a prepared statement.
"For the past 10 years, I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor. 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," she explained.
"[Meldonium] is used medically to improve blood flow, improves exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure and can also give an advantage to healthy athletes," The Independent reports.
"Throughout my long career, I have been very open and honest about many things. I think great responsibility and professionalism in my job every single day," she continued. "I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down. I let the sport down that I've been playing since the age of 4 that I love so deeply. I know that with this, I face consequences. I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."
In a moment of levity afterward, she added that if she were to announce her retirement, it would not be at "a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet."
WTA CEO Steve Simon has since issued a statement following the press conference:
"Wow. Classy of @MariaSharapova to hold a press conference for this and admit making a mistake. Definitely agree that have to be aware though," former player James Blake tweeted after the event.
See more responses on Twitter, ranging from heartfelt to humorous, below: