Maria Sharapova can’t get out of her own way. Months after getting caught doping and receiving a two-year-ban from tennis, she continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
This time, Sharapova’s lawyer was insulted that the World Anti-Doping Agency referenced his client’s pay when commenting on the appeal of her suspension. More specifically, the WADA Chief Craig Reedie said, “For me the only satisfactory element in Madame Sharapova’s case was that in one year she can earn more money than the whole of WADA’s budget put together.”
And that is very much the case. Sharapova is one of the highest earning female athletes of all time, and while her tennis earnings don’t surpass her on-court superior Serena Williams, the money she makes in the advertising and endorsements realm has far surpassed everyone. That was the case until just earlier this month, when Serena finally overtook Sharapova as the world’s highest grossing female athlete. Sharapova’s dip was directly correlated to her getting caught doping, as many prominent advertisers like Nike, Tag Heuer, American Express and Porsche pulled their support due to the discovery that their pristine princess was indeed just a dirty, dirty cheater.
But say, I wonder how the two have fared head-to-head? Surely Sharapova must be earning these sponsorship dollars because of her prowess with the racket?
Oh… so Serena has been dominating Sharapova since ’05, and has still been second fiddle in the earning department. Guess talent isn’t everything. Guess performance isn’t everything either. Guess dominance doesn’t sell quite as well as blonde hair and long legs.
Still for Sharapova, her earnings were enough to bring up as an element of her defense, presumably alluding to her importance to the sport because of the attention her Veela-like appearance brings. It was too much, however, for Sharapova’s defense to hear back, as the mere mention of their client’s finances brought hissy-fit level tears.
“Justice, whether in the eyes of WADA or a court, must be blind, including being blind to a player’s earnings,” Sharapova’s attorney John Haggerty
whimpered into a tissue said in a statement. “Mr. Reedie owes an apology to Maria and to all successful tennis players unless he wants fans to think WADA has different standards for players depending on their ranking and earnings.”
Let’s be clear. This is the lawyer trying to make the case about something else because he knows that, despite his client’s limber limbs, her case hardly has a strong enough leg to stand on– even with the meldonium she had been taking to increase her performance. The holes in his argument abound. Firstly, Reedie said “the only satisfactory element in Madame Sharapova’s case” insinuating that what he was saying was in direct response to the defense that Sharapova’s team had proffered. Haggerty can’t bring attention to earnings and then be upset when they are referenced back to him.
Secondly, her earnings are paramount in the case. How much she has earned is a direct tribute to the illegal-drugs she has had pumping through her body throughout her entire career. Haggerty is worried that fans will think the WADA treats players differently because of their rankings and earnings? What the fans really should be worried about is watching a clean, fair sport where no one is juicing up on meldonium. And in case you forgot, a quick refresher on what the stuff actually does. It can:
- Increase oxidization of the blood (which would allow for greater cardiovascular training)
- Increase exercise capacity and increased exercise tolerance
- Promote a higher learning capacity
- Improve attentiveness and memory capacity
- Increase sexual performance (just in case)
- Increase sperm motility (not necessarily relavent here, but Sharapova is Russian)
- Boost testosterone concentration
Sharapova’s lawyers are arguing that her high performance does not require for high vigilance. In fact the opposite is true. Sharapova has defrauded the tennis world out of millions of dollars in prize money, not to mention the misguided fans and false prestige she has accrued along the way. It’s unclear what her defense would prefer. Did they think they were going to get away with a slap on the wristband?
Simply, Sharapova cheated and she did it better and more effectively than anyone else. For her exceptional crime there should be an exceptional penalty. Her lawyers are right about one thing: there is certainly an apology owed. And if Sharapova really has any respect for the fans or the sport, she will admit her wrongdoing, make her amends, and serve her suspension. Quietly.