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Maria Sharapova faces suspension after failing drugs test

Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues.

Russia's Maria Sharapova gestures as she celebrates after victory in her women's singles match against France's Alize Cornet on day six of the 2014 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2014. IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE AFP PHOTO / GREG WOOD
Maria Sharapova,Sharapova banned
World Sport

CAPE TOWN – Former world number one Maria Sharapova revealed at a press conference on Monday that she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues.



The 28-year-old Russian said “I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,”

She went onto say “For the past 10 years I have been taking a medicine called mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the letter from the ITF (International Tennis Federation) I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know. “

The 28-year-old will be provisionally suspended starting 12 March, the ITF said.

She is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium, which is used to treat diabetes and low magnesium, and was only banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of 1 January.

The ITF's anti-doping programme calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test, but that ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as for first-time offences or if the player shows no significant fault or negligence. If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.

Sharapova is not yet aware of the punishment she will receive and said “It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada’s (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine for the past 10 years. But on 1 January the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known.”

Sharapova, who won Wimbledon at 17 in 2004, admitted she made an error “I received an email on 22 December from Wada about the changes happening to the banned list and you can see prohibited items, and I didn’t click on that link.”

She has been one of the highest female earners in sport says she would like to continue playing “I know that with this I face consequences and I don't want to end my career this way. I really hope to be given another chance to play this game.”

Factfile on tennis player Maria Sharapova.

OTHERS BANNED

Meldonium is used to treat chest pain and heart attacks among other conditions, but some researchers have linked it to increased athletic performance and endurance.

It is listed by Wada among its prohibited metabolic modulators, along with insulin, and some researchers say it can also help recovery.

It is not approved in the United States but is available in Russia, Latvia and other countries in that region.

Over the past month, Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova and Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium.

Sharapova is the most prominent tennis player to test positive for a banned substance in recent years.

Croatia's Marin Cilic was banned for nine months in 2013 after testing positive for a prohibited stimulant, though the suspension was cut to four months on appeal.

Former number one Swiss player Martina Hingis retired after receiving a two-year suspension for a positive cocaine test in 2007, though she denied taking the drug.

Last year, the sport banned US player Wayne Odesnik for 15 years after his second doping violation, testing positive for steroids and other banned substances.

Additional information from Reuters

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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