The Tennis World Can Not Let Maria Sharapova Off The Hook

Last month, Maria Sharapova tested positive for banned substances and was subsequently suspended by the powers that be. She was suspended for meldonium, a substance that she has admitted for taking for more than 10 years. Meldonium is purposed as a heart pill, but is one that is not available in the U.S., probably because our doctors recognize that it does more than just help the old ticker. As Oogeewoogee previously reported, among the things meldonium is supposed to do are:

  • 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

It seems as if the ever-marketable Sharapova is doing all she can to wiggle herself off of the hook. The anti-doping federation came out this week saying “athletes who had tested positive for the drug before March 1 with less than one microgram found in their system, could be reprieved.”

Now wait just a freakin’ minute: they retroactively are changing the stipulations of what it means to fail a drug test? Now, quite clearly because of who it was that got caught, they are going to change the rules of what entails a cheater? That shouldn’t make sense, but sadly it does, especially considering the perceived marketing prowess of her argent hair and statuesque frame. So now, because Sharapova is a tall blonde with a slew of marketing connections, March first is the cutoff date, rather conveniently right in the parameters that would allow Sharapova off the hook. And now, because the tennis world couldn’t handle the loss of their super-model front woman, the cutoff is one microgram. Once again, this is conveniently within the parameters that would allow Sharapova to swing freely.

Since when does the amount of illegal substance weigh in on the severity of the crime? When Darryl Strawberry or Dwight Gooden tested positive for coke in the 80s, should they have been able to get off the hook for saying it was just a little coke? “It was just a half a line, officer.” I’m sure that would have flown at that time. Or ever. Just because the tennis world has taken shitty excuses before, like Andre Agassi saying someone accidentally slipped some methamphetamine into his drink, when in reality he had been doing meth for years, it doesn’t mean they should accept every liar that wanders into the principal’s office. Tennis then wanted to keep Agassi on the court because he was one of the biggest names the sport had ever seen, so they turned a blind eye. And they did so at the expense of Aggasi, his opponents, the fans and the sport. Now they threaten to do the same thing with Sharapova.

And while they are looking to create loopholes in their tangled web for Sharapova to escape through, it seems the World Anti Doping Agency is ignoring one glaring fact. Sharapova has admitted to taking the substance for 10 years. So if she has a trace amount in her system or if her blood is 99% meldonium, the fact is that she has been operating under the influence of it for all these years, producing a fruitful resume on the court with the help of her juicing. The “less than one microgram” argument might make sense if someone was claiming to have accidentally ingested something on a one time, by-accident basis. She had been systematically taking this substance for the meat of her career. The defense doesn’t fit the crime.

While our views as media members and fans might skew both the facts and our perspective, often one’s peers will be able to give a more honest assessment of not only someone’s character, but also the situation. Well, let’s take a look.

“I will only say that I don’t feel sorry at all for Sharapova and I don’t miss her on the tour,” said 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova. “She’s a totally unlikeable person. Arrogant, conceited and cold.”

Anyone else?

“We should all know what we are putting into our body,” offered two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Hm, seems a little damning coming from her compatriots on the court. Sharapova, who is Russian born, is part of an epidemic-level rash of doping that runs rampant through the Russian sports world. While allegations have been made (and founded) against multiple Russian athletes across multiple sports for decades, this year has produced as many positive results as ever. There have been dozens of positive results this year alone since the classifications on meldonium were more closely monitored. “You would have to be either the biggest Sharapova fan or completely naive to believe, given what we now know, that she was taking it for any reason other than to enhance her performance,” the Canadian newspaper The Hamilton Spectator wrote earlier this month.

The marketing machine behind Sharapova and what it means to the tennis world are the issues that are really at the center of all of this. While Serena Williams, the greatest female tennis player of our time, has earned some $74 million in winning on the court, Sharapova hovers around $36 million for her career. When endorsements come into play, however, Sharapova’s career earnings somehow begin to sharply out weigh her considerably more successful foe. In 2014, Sharapova made two endorsement dollars to every one of Serena’s as she clocked in at $22 million as opposed to Serena’s $11 million. Additionally, Sharapova’s career earnings are estimated to be some $285 million dollars according to Forbes, about $250 million of which she made off the court, according to math.

Sharapova’s rich endorsement deals bring publicity to her, as well as the sport. And when she tested positive, Nike and Tag Heuer pulled their endorsements, with Porsche suspending their support. If their starlet were to magically be absolved from her wrongdoings, it could mean an influx of money into their most-marketable stars pockets, as well onto the marquees lining the courts. They don’t care if she cheated. Just as long as they don’t have to start giving their money to the black girl.



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