Maria Sharapova’s failed drugs test was “reckless beyond description”, according to former World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound.
Sharapova, 28, revealed on Monday that she tested positive for the banned substance meldonium in January.
A number of sponsors have already distanced themselves from the Russian five-time Grand Slam winner.
“Running a $30m business depends on you staying eligible to play tennis,” Pound told BBC Sport.
‘There must have been a doctor following this’
Meldonium, which Sharapova said she has taken since 2006 for health reasons, became a banned substance on 1 January.
It is on the banned list now because Wada started seeing it in lots of samples and found it does have performance-enhancing properties.
“You are taking something on a list. I am sorry, that is a big mistake – of course she should have known,” said Pound, who was head of Wada from 1999 to 2007.
“She is taking something that is not generally permitted in her country of residence [USA] for medical purposes, so she says, so there must be a doctor following this.
“Anytime there is a change to the list, notice is given on 30 September prior to the change. You have October, November, December to get off what you are doing.
“All the tennis players were given notification of it and she has a medical team somewhere. That is reckless beyond description.”
‘There is a side-effect to every drug’
The ability to increase oxygen movement to muscles has seen meldonium used as a supplement for athletes, as it could have a positive effect on stamina and endurance.
Pound said: “A drug like this over a long period of time is contraindicated. It means you would not take it over a long period of time. That is why there was an urge to put the drug on the list. A lot of people were taking it for performance enhancing.
“Most of the drugs of choice for dopers were built for therapeutic reasons – like EPO and others. That was supposed to regenerate blood if you had cancer treatment or surgical intervention if you needed to increase blood supply.
“Someone has said: ‘Hmm, more oxygen in the blood? Hmm, very interesting. Let’s see if we can use it for that purpose.’
“There is a side-effect to every drug, somebody must be monitoring this.”
Meldonium treatment should be ‘four to six weeks’
Grindeks, the Latvian company that manufactures meldonium, said on Tuesday that a typical course of treatment should only run to a few weeks.
“Depending on the patient’s health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks,” its statement read.
“Treatment can be repeated twice or thrice a year. Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient’s health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time.”
In response, Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, said he wanted “to disabuse the concept that Maria took [meldonium] every day for 10 years because that’s simply not the case”.
“Maria at all times took the [meldonium] in accordance with the recommendations of her doctor,” he added.
‘Wada can ask for an increased ban’
The International Tennis Federation said Sharapova will be provisionally suspended from 12 March. She faces up to a four-year ban.
“We have now increased the basic penalty for a first offence from two to four years,” added 73-year-old Pound.
“If there is absolutely zero fault on the part of the athlete, where you can get a reduction of half of that suspension period, you are looking at a couple of years.
“That is for the tennis association to propose. If Wada does not agree, it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for an increase.”
‘Sharapova – a media darling’
Sharapova made her announcement at a hotel in Los Angeles on Monday and her admission has polarised opinions.
World number one Serena Williams, who had beaten Sharapova in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on 26 January before she tested positive, has said the Russian has shown “a lot of courage” for accepting responsibility.
However, Jeanette Kwakye, 100m finalist for Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has criticised Sharapova and feels she may be given a light sentence.
“What we have in Maria Sharapova is a media darling. She knows how to work the world of media, she knows how to spin and put things in her favour by breaking her own news,” said Kwakye.
“For somebody like her, it may be a lenient slap on the wrist. There seems to be a different rule for her.”