Maria Sharapova, one of the world’s most renowned female athletes, has marred her nearly perfect tennis career after testing positive for the drug meldonium. The tennis superstar failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open and could possibly face a four-year suspension.
The World Anti-Doping Agency placed meldonium on its ever-growing list of banned drugs on Jan. 1. USA Today reported that meldonium is popular among Russian and Eastern European athletes, and like many other types of drugs used for doping, is believed to increase the amount of oxygen that an athlete’s body can take in at once.
Sharapova claims to have taken meldonium for over a decade for a heart condition, as a physician prescribed it to her, according to the New York Times. Since the drug’s ban earlier this year, the WADA has reported that approximately 100 athletes have been found to have meldonium in their system, showing the drug’s popularity among athletes.
Whether she used meldonium to gain a competitive edge is one issue, but her claim that she doesn’t know about the drug’s recent ban shows immense negligence. According to USA Today, CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association Steve Simon said that Sharapova’s incident was an “honest mistake.” Many other supporters have backed Sharapova’s claim that the failed drug test was accidental, but that still does not negate the fact that she broke the rules and had a performance-enhancing drug in her system. Dozens of other athletes have been the victims of accidental consumption of banned substances and accepted their punishments with grace, and Sharapova should be no exception.
Sharapova should have known that meldonium was recently deemed illegal, considering the elite level she competes at. It’s hard to believe that neither she nor her physician were familiar with the drug’s recent ban. An athlete is completely responsible for what goes into his or her body, and there is no excuse for Sharapova to continue consuming a banned substance.
Sharapova and many of her supporters believe that her suspension should be minimal because of the tennis star’s claims that she didn’t do anything to intentionally dishonor the values of the sport. Although she is an incredibly talented and influential athlete, she is not above the rules. She needs to accept her punishment and take full responsibility for the incident.
CNN reported that Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche have all terminated sponsorship deals with Sharapova. The United Nations has also suspended the 29-year-old’s humanitarian work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. Development Program. She will be unable to work on behalf of the United Nations until her doping investigation concludes.
Yes, this is an unfortunate turn of events for a talented athlete, but intentional or not, Sharapova is 100 percent responsible for what goes into her body, and she should accept the consequences.