The sporting world remains in shock at the news that Maria Sharapova, the five-time tennis Grand Slam winner and highest-paid female athlete for the past 11 years, has failed a drug test and faces a one-year ban.
Sharapova held a press conference on Monday to reveal that she had tested positive for meldonium, a drug that aids blood flow in sufferers of cardiac failure and vascular diseases which can also give an advantage to healthy athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Ageny [Wada] placed meldonium on their banned substances list on 1 January 2016, with Sharapova admitting that she has knowingly and legally taken the drug for nearly 10 years prior to its removal as a legal substance.
However, the 28-year-old Russian failed to click a link that would have told her of its removal as a legal aid when Wada emailed all athletes with the updated prohibited list for 2016, and Sharapova has accepted “full responsibility” for what she admitted was a “huge mistake”.
With the belief that Sharapova was going to announce her retirement in the hastily arranged press conference, the sporting world was left in a state of shock, with many current and former athletes torn over whether to believe Sharapova and if the circumstances made her a genuine drug cheat.
Former tennis players Jennifer Capriati and Andrew Castle were among those who felt that her story did not quite add up, with the American launching a stunning verbal attack on Sharapova, while former heptathlete and Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Sotherton queried whether the same media response would have come had Sharapova been a track and field athlete.
However, not everyone feels that Sharapova is entirely to blame, with her current fellow tennis professionals Madison Keys and Jamie Hampton quick to praise the Russian for her honesty for admitting to what they both described as an “honest mistake”.
There was support too from tennis great Martina Navratilova, who said that she hopes to see the matter “cleared up”.
Former British number one Annabel Croft said that she believes a ban longer than the one-year she is expected to receive could end Sharapova’s career.
Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, Croft said: "The game moves on constantly and it's very, very difficult to keep up at the best of times.
"It's not to say never as she's one of the best competitors out there. She's utterly ruthless as a competitor and she's got a strong will and a strong mind.
"It's not to say she couldn't come back at some level but I think it would be very difficult if it was a two-year ban or more than that to get back to the heights she's at."
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