The tennis world is abuzz with the news that superstar Maria Sharapova failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. The Russian (28) tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health reasons. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said the five-time Grand Slam champion would be provisionally suspended from March 12. Sportswear company Nike reacted sharply and quickly to the news adhering to its catchline, ‘Just Do It’ halting its relationship with her. Other sponsors followed either with immediate termination or stated that current contracts would not be renewed. Sharapova has admitted that she took the test and failed it and took full responsibility for it. She admitted she had taken meldonium for the past 10 years knowing the drug as mildronate. The drug was only banned in January this year, and Sharapova and her team had not bothered to check it.
Today, there is just no excuse for top class athletes to not know they have taken a banned substance. The highest paid female athlete in the world had a team backing her, an extensive set up of people and experts who are behind the tennis star. This entourage consists of top class professionals in media management, finance, sponsorship management and health team, which is responsible for handling a top class athlete, who is an industry in herself.
Athletes have full-fledged teams who should be reading the official fine print on all documents. The doping issue is huge in international sport, so, it is imperative that an athlete gets it absolutely spot on when it comes to doping regulations. Every day, the game’s officials are racing to stay ahead of ‘cheats’ and this means athletes’ support staff has to read the fine print very carefully.
Sharapova will now pay a heavy price for the mistake. While bans and endorsement deals falling through are one thing, it is the taint that will be hardest to wipe off. Just like Sharapova herself, the followers also refuse to look at the ‘fine print’ and will simply term her an offender.