INDIAN WELLS. – Tennis professionals rocked by Maria Sharapova’s admission that she had failed a drug test are now waiting to see what sanction the Russian superstar will face.
Sharapova’s positive test for meldonium was the talk of the locker room as the hardcourt tournament at Indian Wells got underway on Wednesday.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova said she was “shocked” and world number three Agnieszka Radwanska described it as a “sad day for tennis”.
Radwanska said she was in the locker room in Indian Wells with a group of WTA players getting ready to train for this week’s tournament in southern California when she heard the news on Monday.
“It is a sad day for tennis,” Radwanska said. “Nobody expected that. We are all waiting to see what they are going to do about it.”
Czech Kvitova said Sharapova had made a “huge mistake” by not paying more attention to what drugs are on the banned list.
“We should all know what we are putting into our body,” she said.
“It was a huge mistake and she is taking responsibility for it.”
Sharapova revealed on Monday that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January, saying she had taken the circulation-boosting drug used to treat heart ailments since 2006, but had not spotted that it was added to the banned list as of January 1.
Sponsors of the world’s highest-earning sportswoman immediately distanced themselves, with Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer all halting their relationships with the former world number one.
The five-time Grand Slam winner could face a ban of up to four years, although her lawyer John J. Haggerty told the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday that he believed she can plead mitigating circumstances and receive a lesser punishment.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that this was intentional on Maria’s behalf,” Haggerty said.
Sharapova, whose on-court prowess and business savvy have brought her an estimated personal fortune of $200 million, wrote on her Facebook page that she woke up early on Wednesday morning determined to fight through the scandal and eventually continue her career.
“New day, new start. It is fair to say that this day was not average,” Sharapova wrote.
“Nothing came to mind at 6am, except that I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so.
“I wish I didn’t have to go through this, but I do – and I will.”
Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who has won 14 Grand Slam titles, said Sharapova’s positive test is a black eye for the sport.
“It is terrible news for our sport,” Nadal said.
“It is terrible because our sport must be clean and look clean.
“The good news is we have a good anti-doping programme.” – AFP.