Sharapova starts to count cost of failed drug test, likely ban

admin   •   March 9, 2016   •   2139

Mar 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Maria Sharapova arrives for a press conference announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conference today at The LA Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Maria Sharapova arrives for a press conference announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conference today at The LA Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer said on Tuesday it was severing ties with Maria Sharapova as the world’s highest-paid female athlete started to count the cost of a failed drug test and likely ban from tennis.

Sports firm Nike and German luxury car maker Porsche also said they were suspending their relationship with the five-time Grand Slam champion as the 28-year-old Russian awaits a decision on whether she will be banned.

The failed drug test at January’s Australian Open, one of four annual Grand Slam events, will be costly for her at a time when sports bodies and sponsors are taking a tough line following a series of corruption and doping scandals.

Sharapova earned $29.7 million last year, Forbes magazine reported, and most of it came from endorsements, appearances and royalties rather than her victories on court.

She was the world’s highest-paid female athlete last year for the 11th consecutive year, and Forbes put her off-court career earnings at more than $200 million.

“We’re now entering a zero tolerance era for sponsors,” said Rupert Pratt, co-founder of sports sponsorship agency Generate. “It is now seen as not acceptable to ‘stand by your man’ because of the amount of scrutiny corporates are now under”.

Sharapova, who lit up women’s tennis when she won Wimbledon in 2004 as a 17-year-old and is still ranked among the top players, announced on Monday she had tested positive for meldonium, which she said she was taking for diabetes and low magnesium.

The drug is also used to treat chest pain and heart problems as it boosts blood flow. Some researchers have linked it to increased athletic performance, longer endurance and speedier recovery. It was recently listed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) among its prohibited metabolic modulators, which include insulin.

Sharapova said she had been taking the substance for a decade for health reasons and had not read an email informing her that a ban on its use in sport, imposed by WADA, had come into force on Jan. 1.

She will be provisionally suspended from playing tennis from March 12 and could be prevented from competing for Russia at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this year.

Sharapova’s deal with Tag Heuer had expired at the end of 2015, and the company had been in talks to extend the collaboration, it said on Tuesday.

“In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations and has decided not to renew the contract,” TAG Heuer, a unit of French luxury goods group LVMH, said in a statement.

Porsche, a division of Volkswagen, said it was suspending Sharapova’s role as its brand ambassador.

“We regret the current news about Maria Sharapova. Until further details emerge and we are able to analyse the situation, we have decided to suspend planned activities,” it said.

It followed Nike Inc, the world’s largest sportswear maker, which said it was “saddened and surprised” by the news when it announced it was putting ties on hold with the player.

There was some scepticism about the sponsors’ motives from tennis fans on social media.

Ben Stanley (@BDStanley) tweeted on Tuesday, “Nike is in the business of making money, not offering moral guidance. If it paid to keep Sharapova on, they’d do it.”

Cate Fry ‏(@Cate_Fry) tweeted: “Respect for @MariaSharapova addressing the issue of a medication she is taking…it’s a shame her sponsors are not more understanding.”

Another sponsor, cosmetics maker Avon Products Inc, declined to comment on its endorsements.

RUSSIAN TENNIS CHIEF DEFENDS SHARAPOVA

Sharapova, who lives in the United States, is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium.

She said her family doctor had been giving her mildronate, also called meldonium, for 10 years after she frequently became sick, had irregular EKG results, a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.

“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine. But on January the first, the rules have changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance.”

Sharapova competed in one tournament while using meldonium as a banned substance.

“I made a huge mistake. I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way,” she said.

Russia’s tennis chief leapt to the player’s defence, and said he expected the player to compete at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

“I think this is just a load of nonsense,” Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation, said. “The sportsmen take what they are given by the physiotherapists and by the doctors.”

Meldonium is not approved in the United States but is available in Russia, Latvia and other countries in that region.

Over the past month, Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi, and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium. Russian news agency R-Sport quoted the Volleyball Federation of Russia as saying Russian volleyball player Alexander Markin had also tested positive for the substance.

Sports bodies have taken a tough line in recent months to wipe out doping and corruption. The world athletics’ governing body, the IAAF, has suspended Russia’s athletics federation over doping and soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has removed its top leaders and began an overhaul in a corruption scandal.

Sharapova is the most prominent tennis player to test positive for a banned substance in recent years and the biggest name since Martina Hingis was banned in 2008 after recording a positive test for a metabolite of cocaine

The International Tennis Federation’s anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test.

That ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as if the player shows no significant fault or negligence. If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.

(Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow, Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt, Michael Shields in Zurich, Gina Cherelus and Anjali Athavaley in New York; Writing by Ossian Shine; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Bill Rigby)

TAGS   

‘Cheater’ Sharapova should not be allowed to play again: Bouchard

UNTV News   •   April 27, 2017

Tennis – WTA Stuttgart Tennis Grand Prix – Maria Sharapova of Russia v Roberta Vinci of Italy – Stuttgart, Germany – 26/4/17. Maria Sharapova of Russia in action. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has lashed out at the WTA for giving Maria Sharapova the chance to compete in tournaments after serving a 15-month doping ban and said the Russian is a “cheater” who should never be allowed to play again.

Sharapova beat Italian Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Wednesday after receiving a controversial wild card for the tournament, having lost all her ranking points in the wake of her suspension.

Sharapova was banned for two years after testing positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication the former world number one had been taking within the rules but which was then reclassified as a banned drug.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced her ban to 15 months, while finding Sharapova was not an “intentional doper” but “bore some degree of fault” for relying on her agent to check the prohibited list for changes and failing to ensure he had done so.

Bouchard, a 2014 Wimbledon finalist, told the Istanbul-based TRT World in an interview that a bad example had been set.

“She’s a cheater and … I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again,” she said.

“It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true. I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: ‘cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms’.

“I don’t think that’s right and (Sharapova is) definitely not someone I can say I look up to any more.”

Sharapova, who faces Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in the second round in Stuttgart later on Thursday, has also received invitations to play in Madrid and Rome and will find out in May whether she will be given a wild card for the French Open.

(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Tennis: All eyes on Stuttgart as Sharapova poised for return

UNTV News   •   April 26, 2017

FILE PHOTO: Russia’s Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/THOMAS PETER

Not much fazes Roberta Vinci after 16 years on Tour but the maelstrom swirling around her opening match in Stuttgart against Maria Sharapova will test even the Italian’s vast experience.

Her 946th singles might ordinarily have been one to chalk off and forget about but standing over the other side of the net on Wednesday will be the former world number one on her return from a 15-month doping ban.

Whatever else is happening on any other tennis court in the world will become irrelevant as Russian multi-millionaire Sharapova, who turned 30 last week, resumes a career that made her the world’s richest sportswoman.

Debate still rages about Sharapova’s crime and punishment.

While some say the five-times grand slam champion, initially banned for two years after testing positive for Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, has done her time some fellow players are angry the red carpet is being rolled out.

With no ranking after such a long period without swinging her racket in anger, Sharapova could have been forced to work her way back from the lower rungs of the tennis ladder.

Instead, with tournament chiefs and sponsors well aware of her ticket-selling appeal she has been handed wildcards into the claycourt events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.

It is not an arrangement Vinci approves of. “My personal opinion is (I do) not agree about wild cards… about Rome, about other tournaments,” she said in a press conference at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

“She is a great player – I don’t have nothing against her. She made her mistakes for sure. She can return to play, but without wild cards. I know (Sharapova) is important for the WTA, for tennis, for everything. She is a great person, a great champion. My personal opinion is this.”

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska have also cried foul, believing a player returning from a doping ban should have to do it the hard way.

Sharapova, whose defense was that she had not realized Meldonium had been added to a list of banned substances at the start of 2016, insisted the substance is as common as aspirin in Russia where it is known as Mildronate.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) agreed that Sharapova was not an intentional doper shortened her ban from two years to 15 months.

While admitting her mistake, Sharapova has hardly been full of contrition and has criticized the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for failing to notify her that Meldonium, a medication she said she had used for a number of years to treat health issues, had indeed been flagged up by WADA as ‘performance enhancing’.

Only last week Sharapova’s agent Max Eisenbud stoked the fires by saying the likes of Wozniacki and Radwanska were “journeyman” players hoping to benefit from Sharapova’s exclusion.

Sharapova’s prospective second-round clash in Stuttgart against Poland’s Radwanska could be an awkward encounter.

A decision is expected soon on whether the French Tennis Federation (FFT) will fast-track the 2012 and 2014 Roland Garros champion into the French Open draw. Her only other route is to win the Stuttgart title so that she can boost her ranking to enter French Open qualifying.

What adds intrigue to Sharapova’s return is that it comes at a time with the WTA Tour reeling from the news that world number one and 23-times major champion Serena Williams will not play again this year after announcing she is pregnant.

With twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova recovering from being stabbed, former number one Victoria Azarenka still to return from childbirth the cupboard looks a little bare when it comes to headline acts.

So while Sharapova’s might get a lukewarm welcome in the locker room there is no question the money men will welcome her back with open arms, not least Porsche.

The German sports car giant is the lead partner of the Stuttgart event and also sponsor Sharapova.  — By Martyn Herman | LONDON

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Sharapova banned for two years by ITF

admin   •   June 9, 2016

Maria Sharapova of Russia speaks during a news conference at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia on January 1, 2013. REUTERS/DANIEL MUNOZ/FILE PHOTO

Maria Sharapova of Russia speaks during a news conference at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane, Australia on January 1, 2013.
REUTERS/DANIEL MUNOZ/FILE PHOTO

The career of Russian former world number one Maria Sharapova was in tatters on Wednesday after she was given a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) following her positive test for the banned drug meldonium.

In a statement the ITF said the five-times grand slam champion’s ban would be backdated to Jan. 26 this year, meaning her results and prize money from the Australian Open, where she reached the quarter-finals, would be canceled out.

Sharapova, 29, said she would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), describing the punishment as “unfairly harsh”.

She said an independent tribunal in London on May 18-19 had found that she had not intentionally violated anti-doping rules.

A 33-page report of the tribunal’s findings said: “The ITF accepts that the player did not engage in conduct that she knew constituted an antidoping rule violation,” but it rejected her assertion that there was no “significant” fault on her part.

“She was the sole author of her own misfortune,” it said.

On its website, the ITF said the ban, which could have been as long as four years, had been backdated due to Sharapova’s “prompt admission” of taking the substance, and would end on midnight of Jan. 25, 2018.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) later issued a short statement saying it would review the decision before deciding whether to use its independent right of appeal to CAS.

Sharapova has regularly battled back from serious injuries during her glittering career but the two-year ban means she will not be eligible to play until after the 2018 Australian Open when she will be 30, and raises the question of whether she will ever play again.

“If it stands, then I think it will be difficult for her to come back at the same level,” the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpishchev, told TASS news agency, calling for the penalty to be reduced.

TIME AND RESOURCES

Meldonium was added to WADA’s list of banned substances at the start of the year after mounting evidence that it boosted blood flow and enhanced athletic performance.

Around 180 athletes have tested positive for the drug, manufactured in Latvia and common throughout eastern Europe, since January.

Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, stunned the sporting world in March when she announced that she had tested positive for meldonium, a component of a product named Mildronate which she has taken since 2006 for health issues.

At the time Sharapova, the highest-profile tennis player to fail an anti-doping test, said she had made “a huge mistake” in failing to realize that continuing to take Mildronate would be a violation of the anti-doping code.

“The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not,” she said on Facebook.

The ITF had sought a four-year suspension but the tribunal rejected that, she said.

“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension.”

The tribunal found that Sharapova had taken Mildronate before each of her five matches at this year’s Australian Open where she lost to Serena Williams.

It rejected Sharapova’s argument that the ITF should have informed her that she and a number of other tennis players had tested positive for meldonium in 2015 before it was added to the banned list.

“CONCEALED”

The report also said that Sharapova had not made her use of Mildronate known to most of her team, including her coach, her trainer, her physiotherapist and her nutritionist, nor any of the doctors made available to players by the WTA.

Questioning why she continued taking Mildronate before matches, the report said: “In the tribunal’s view the answer is clear. Whatever the position may have been in 2006, there was in 2016 no diagnosis and no therapeutic advice supporting the continuing use of Mildronate.

“If she had not concealed her use of Mildronate from the anti-doping authorities, members of her own support team and the doctors whom she consulted, but had sought advice, then the contravention would have been avoided,” it said.

The ban will have an enormous impact on Sharapova’s earning potential.

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer cut its ties with Sharapova after the news of her doping violation while other sponsors such as Porsche distanced themselves from her.

Nike however, said on Wednesday they would continue to work with Sharapova.

“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” the sports apparel giant said in a statement. “Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban.”

Sharapova has 35 WTA singles titles and has won all four of the sport’s grand slam titles.

Her career earnings amount to $36 million while her off-court earnings, according to Forbes, are around $200 million.

(Editing by Clare Fallon and Robin Pomeroy)

REACH US

The Philippine Broadcast Hub

UNTV, 915 Barangay Philam,

EDSA, Quezon City M.M. 1104

(+632) 8396-8688 (Tel)

info@untv-newsandrescue.com (General inquiries)

ABOUT UNTV

UNTV is a major TV broadcast network with 24-hour programming. An Ultra High Frequency station with strong brand content that appeal to everyone, UNTV is one of the most trusted and successful Philippine networks that guarantees wholesome and quality viewing experience.