Maria Sharapova and the Meldonium doping scandal

Medication, not doping?

Maria SharapovaWho doesn’t admire Maria Sharapova? All the girls want to be her and all the boys want to be, well, with her.

A fine tennis player indeed. A fine athlete and yet it turns out that all these years she was struggling with a severe heart condition necessitating the use of an unapproved drug that just happens to increase oxygen uptake and stamina. Not that Ms Sharapova was taking it for those reasons of course because that would be cheating. That would be like using EPO. That would turn Maria Sharapova into as big a cheat as Lance Armstrong, and everyone knows that tennis is far cleaner than cycling.

Still, who could have guessed that Maria Sharapova suffered from chronic heart failure requiring constant use of the drug Meldonium for the last decade?

What an achievement for a person with such a serious illness to win the Australian Open, the French Open (twice) and the US Open in the last ten years. It makes all our little petty concerns seem so small compared to the obstacles Sharapova overcame on her way to greatness, battling heart failure to become one of the legendary figures of modern tennis.

The dedication of this great champion was so intense that she didn’t even stick with the recommendations of the drug’s manufacturers that it should be used for no more than four to six weeks at a time, and no more than two or three times in a year. But perhaps that was because she was using it in America where no guidance exists, since the drug is not licensed for use there. And how brave of her personal physician to prescribe the unlicensed drug, risking disbarment and perhaps worse in the intolerant world of US federal drug regulation, though of course, since it can be bought over the counter in Latvia where it’s produced, it is possible that adoring fans simply purchased it and posted it to their idol.

Tennis, it’s fair to say, is a clean sport. There’s no need for all that drug-testing that happens in other codes, and while it’s true that the elite male tennis stars can play five gruelling sets lasting an entire day and yet rebound within hours to play another equally-hard match without obvious ill effects, that’s due to their extreme fitness. Like golfers, tennis players simply do not cheat.

I suppose we can blame Sharapova’s heart condition for her failure to read the email from WADA last September warning her that Meldonium was now included in their official list of banned drugs. It’s hard to concentrate when you might drop dead of an ischaemic attack at any second, staved off only by the life-saving medication your doctor has risked his licence to prescribe.

But what a pity she didn’t open that email and read what it said. What a shame Maria Sharapova, famous for her attention to detail, simply didn’t notice that the drug she had been using for the previous decade was now banned, and continued to take it. Naturally, that would have nothing to do with the fact that testing of professional tennis players is almost unheard-of.

She just didn’t notice the email and that’s why Maria Sharapova is now out of tennis.

Petty bureaucracy.





16 thoughts on “Maria Sharapova and the Meldonium doping scandal

  1. Petty bureaucracy? Perhaps. Did you listen to the Newstalk lads earlier this evening? They presented the for and against in this. Paul Kimmage was on too, and made some good points.

    An American guy thought that, in the states, this isn’t a big deal, because it’s assumed that most NFL players are juiced up anyway.

    Kimmage compared it to expensive and cheap wines from the same region. If the expensive wine is banned, you’ll buy the cheap wine, because it’s from the same region, and will probably taste the same.
    Also mentioned a cyclist who was taking something last year that wasn’t banned in cyclin, but ended up being caught in a stash of drugs used for greyhounds.

    Some of the lads on Newstalk reckoned she pulled a stroke holding the press conference, as she now controls the situation. She was caught so why didn’t WADA come out and say it?

    Kimmage also made a point about tennis being clean. Based on what?

  2. Kimmage very clearly reckoned that Tennis is completely corrupted by drugs, comparing the regime of playing tennis and cycling as similar in fitness required..Kimmage believes all sports infected, and the real elephant in the room is football..

  3. Kimmage absolutely did not say that tennis is clean. He was very clear that tennis enjoys an unwarranted immunity from scrutiny.

  4. Kimmage might be obsessed with drugs in sport but it was an interesting segment earlier.
    They also discussed it last night as it was breaking.
    Reading Tomas O Se’s book at the moment and he mentioned ’twas only a matter of time before it creeps in to the GAA. Didn’t a Monaghan guy get caught last year taking something?
    Question also asked earlier in Newstalk on athletes taking substances to control an illness they might not want to make public. (e.g. AIDS)

  5. Surely athletes taking drugs legitimately for medical reasons are protected against publicity, are they not?

  6. According to Wikipedia, meldonium is an Eastern European development from a Latvian pharmaceutical company by name of Grindeks. What is wrong with it? It is not a Western product! That is all that is wrong with it!
    If it is really good at doing what it is supposed to do then it is seen as serious competition in the cut-throat world of the pharmacy industry and I think, (opinion only) that Maria Sharapova is just hit in the cross fire of international business feuding of which she knows nothing.
    There are others besides her listed in Wikipedia.

    In an interview with Vesti.Ru, (a Russian news channel), meldonium developer Ivars Kalvins claimed that issuing it on the list is “a stupidity with background plot which is either politically or economically motivated”. (Wikipedia article on meldonium)

    Another opinion that I hold, strictly opinion: Maria Sharapova may have other opponents, (better described as enemies) OFF-court. In the world of international sport, especially professional sport, there is no such thing as sportsmanship. Win by any means is fair game.

    Now the email, correct me if I am wrong. Notifying people of a critical issue by email is not legally sufficient by itself. Critical matters must be assured of delivery to the addressee and the person must be known to have been informed.
    Am I correct or not?

  7. Professional athletes using drugs are required to monitor what drugs are on the banned list.

    Meldonium is banned.

    That is all.

  8. Someone said on the radio earlier, that she had been notified five times in December.

    TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption), was what I was trying to remember before, but couldn’t!

    What would happen if the effects of TUE drugs were performance enhancing?

  9. I’d be tending toward her being shown leniency if the thing was only recently added. I’d say she’ll end up with a lengthy enough ban though. Such a pity as she’s clearly very talented.. but I suppose at that level, a lot of them are, and a difference in stamina could be the clincher between you and your opponent.

    I was watching an episode of that series on RTE 2 about McGregor there one night and in the lead up to a fight, prior to him being tested he was told not to take even so much as a painkiller for a headache, cough medicine, anything at all basically, just in case.. I didn’t realise it was so strict. Wasn’t Ronnie O’Sullivan banned for smoking the wacky backy one time too.. that’s all right though.. He was only letting loose shur.

  10. “I did not open the email” she said…. I bet that’s what she tells all the guys… :)

    More seriously:
    – The reasons why she used the drug before January 2016 are not relevant – it was not banned – in just the same way as bananas or cereal bars or energy drinks are not banned
    – That she was not aware of the ban from January is hard to believe.

  11. Ive sent Maria an e-mail stating that if she needs to escape media attention and the nerds who only wish to bring the greatest tennis player ever down, she can come and reside with me, not holding out much hope though, she probably won’t even open it!!!

    By the way I can send an e-mail as can anyone, to anyone in the world and my computer can tell me if it was opened and when, unfortunately though not by whom

  12. With no disrespect at all to you Barry, you’re just Barry. Do you suppose Maria saw the five emails from the World Tennis Federation headed New Banned Drug and decided she’d check them out later?

  13. Only Womens tennis scandal I want to hear about is the rampant Lesbianism. Oh yes Lesbian tennis players is there a category in pornhub for rhat?

  14. Yur right Bock, of course you are. I was just having a light hearted stab.

    A top rank player who has to live,eat sleep tennis to be in the top ten world rankings and gross over thirty million dollars a year will most definitely have a massive team that looks after every single aspect of her life, especially so her health, fitness and medicine routines, and lots more. not to mention banned drugs, past and/or present, they would know of new drugs coming on the list long long before they actually made it.
    Ive followed Maria’s career for years now and her game has been nothing short of inspirational, it’s really sad to find out she has been cheating for the last ten years.

  15. Barry I dont think you need to say she was cheating.

    Meldonium was not a banned medicine until January 2016. Up until then, taking it was no more a crime than taking aspiring, eating bananas or drinking Red Bull.

    The only question here is why did she keep using it after it was banned and what penalty should she pay for that.

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