Maria Sharapova-Where to from here?

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The Maria Sharapova revelation has taken the world by storm. The most marketable female athlete in the world, has come out clean about a failed drug test. If you are still in the dark about it, the Russian 5 time Slam winner has admitted to failing a drug test, this January at the Australian Open, a drug, which she claims, she had been taking legally for over 10 years. But, is that that? There’s surely more to the story.

The drug in question, is ‘Meldonium’, and was outlawed by WADA with effect from January 1, after they found out that in some capacities, the drug might be used by athletes for performance enhancing. It is manufactured in Latvia, and only sold in Baltic countries, along with Russia. The sale of the drug is prohibited in USA, Sharapova’s country of residence. Sharapova claims that she started using it 10 years back, after her family doctor prescribed it, for a “heart condition” that she had, along with diabetic symptoms.
So far, so good. Now, it starts getting murkier where Sharapova goes on to claim that she “missed” the notification mail, sent by WADA, listing the prohibited drugs. There are rumours of there having been as many as 5 mails, which the tennis star and her team didn’t check. But, Sharapova has come out and taken full responsibility for her actions.

Now, her PR team needs to be given massive credit here. By coming out and admitting it on her own, rather than waiting for the World Anti Doping Agency to announce her failure later, Maria has taken a head start, both legally, and sympathetically:

1) For one, her team might go ahead and ask for a retrospective TEU (therapeutic use exemption)

2) Also, garnering public support. Coming out and admitting is being seen as a brave step across the world, as it shows Sharapova has owned upto her mistakes and is ready to face the consequences. This has led to a tremendous public outpouring of support from the watching public, which point to the recent ban, and Sharapova having used it legally.

On the commercial front, it hasn’t been plain sailing exactly. Giants like Nike and Tag Heuer have withdrawn their support and have cancelled their contracts with the Russian born star with immediate effect. On the other hand, racquet manufacturer Head, has decided to continue to partner with Sharapova and have offered their support.

There is talk of a reduced sentence, owing to the recent prohibition of the drug, how it can be blamed on the team, and how Maria came out and admitted upfront. The tennis world too is divided over this one, even the top male stars. While Novak Djokovic has come out in support of the Russian superstar, rival Rafa Nadal has said that she needs to face the consequences of her actions. There is bound to be a punishment, though the exact duration is still up in the air. What remains to be seen is when and how Maria Sharapova comes back from the sentence and if she will be the same force that she is now. The tennis world will be hoping that she does bounce back.

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