Sharapova set for drug ban hearing

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova was dropped by her sponsor Nike following her positive drug test

Maria Sharapova, the five-time tennis Grand Slam winner, will face an anti-doping panel in London on Wednesday after taking the banned drug meldonium.

The 29-year-old Russian failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January.

Meldonium, a heart disease drug, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list on 1 January.

The International Tennis Federation panel could issue a four-year-ban – but experts say a six to 12 month punishment is more likely.

That is because Wada admitted in April that there was a lack of scientific evidence about how long meldonium stayed in the system and it suggested athletes who tested positive for the substance before 1 March could avoid bans, provided they had stopped taking it before 1 January.

However, Sharapova said she had continued taking it past that date as she was unaware it had been added to the banned list as she knew it by another name – mildronate.

The former world number one also admitted she had failed to properly read advice sent out by anti-doping authorities ahead of the ban.

READ MORE: What is meldonium and what are the benefits?

After admitting she had failed the drug test, Sharapova revealed she had been taking the meldonium for 10 years on the recommendation of her doctor for medical reasons.

“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,” she said.

The Latvian-made drug is said to benefit athletes by increasing stamina and endurance. It was widely used by sportsmen and women in eastern Europe, in particular, ahead of its prohibition.

A recent study suggested almost 500 athletes may have been taking meldonium at the 2015 European Games in Baku.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Maria Sharapova reveals Australian Open failed drugs test

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

Her case has been the most high-profile relating to meldonium since the ban was brought in – there have been almost 300 positive samples so far this year, according to Wada.

They included Belarusian tennis player Sergey Betov, who also tested positive at the Australian Open. The doubles specialist was last month cleared by the International Tennis Federation on the grounds that he had stopped taking it before 2016.

Sharapova is expected to argue that the health reasons she cited for taking the drug should qualify her for a backdated therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

We’ve launched a new BBC Sport newsletter ahead of the Euros and Olympics, bringing all the best stories, features and video right to your inbox. You can sign up here.

comments powered by Disqus