Calm Down, For Maria Sharapova Is Probably Not Guilty

On August 22, 2005, when an 18 year old girl from Russia became the world number one in women’s tennis, many sat up and noticed how beautiful she was, other than the obvious talent that she had. Men, as usual, had new found love, and women, either had someone to be jealous of and hate or look up to in appreciation. As time went by, Sharapova conquered many other titles and achieved greater heights, some of which have been surmounted by only a handful others.

Overnight, she became the darling of shutterbugs, who lapped up each pose of this young lass. For years to come, news bulletins remained her favourite destination to be, sometimes for winning yet another grand slam and sometimes for how her beauty won her yet another modelling contract. But this time, its different. Maria Sharapova became the news this time for all the wrong reasons, albeit in the right way.

When Sharapova called a press conference and confessed to testing positive for a banned substance, the reactions were quite expected. The bombshell dropped a bomb, saying that she had tested positive for meldonium.

Now many of us, including me,  had to seek Internet’s help to know what-the-hell-ium Sharapova took for 10 long years and almost no one, including the anti-doping watchdog World anti-doping agency knew about it.

maria

Fans were divided between her admitting to it, and explaining her ignorance or the usual crime is a crime whether one does it intentionally or not saga. Brands withdrew and discontinued her contract, making things worse for the star, denting the little social image she had salvaged by confessing.

All these reactions are expected and to some extent justified too because of the kind of successful career she has had in the world of tennis. Since the announcement is past us, and law shall take its own course, the debate comes to whether Sharapova is guilty or not.

Sharapova has a team of trainers and doctors who are well experienced, aware and up-to date about such things. They get paid for it. Furthermore, this particular drug, Meldonium is banned in most parts of the world. Some places in Eastern Europe and Russia, though, do not have them in their banned drugs list.

So point one, she is not guilty of taking the drug. She relied on experts, who were misinformed or rather did not have the latest information.

Second, why did she take the wonder medicine that ‘appears to improve the users’ mood and they become more active’. Turns out, it is actually a medicine Mildronate manufactured in Latvian countries and used mainly for heart related diseases. And that her family doctor had advised it to her since she fell ill regularly, and her family had a history of diabetes, of which she was also exhibiting symptoms.

Technically, she did play while on those drugs, which, if not a performance enhancement drug, is certainly a factor which will not be scrutinized retrospectively. But she is not guilty for all the money one can bet. She will be punished by the law, since the law here is very technical and not subject to interpretations. But, for any sane mind, who lent a careful ear to her press conference and subsequently read media reports, it is clear that the so called medicine Mildronate was included in the banned substances list only on January 1st this year.

Does this absolve her of any guilt whatsoever? Perhaps not. But does this make her guilty? Certainly not. But making her the scapegoat for an unintentional error will end up souring many taste buds, and will not be in the best intentions for the game.

It’s commendable for a sports star of Maria’s level to come up to the stage and admit her mistake and take full responsibility of her actions. But again, does that mean she should be let scot-free? She might not have known, after all, it’s been only three months since the drug was listed on the ‘banned list’. The punishment in sight for Sharapova, apart from Nike, Tag Heuer and Porche terminating her contract, is perhaps a suspension of one full year from any sort of international tennis engagement. The question that now stands is, would it be Sharapova’s loss or tennis’?

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