Sharapova slams ITF antidoping chief after her reduced ban

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Sharapova slams ITF antidoping chief after her reduced ban

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SportsCafe Desk

10/06/2016

After her two-year ban was reduced on Tuesday by the CAS, Maria Sharapova has broken her silence saying that the ITF's actions raises concerns over the future of players who take banned substances for medical purposes. Sharapova also said that she has never considered retirement following the ban.

In June 2016, the International Tennis Federation(ITF) had issued an official statement banning Maria Sharapova until January 25, 2018 after her samples given in January and February tested positive for Meldonium, a banned substance. After attending four hearings over a span of four months challenging this ban, Sharapova was finally given a breather by the Court of Arbitration for Sports on Tuesday. The Court reduced her ban to 15 months which means that she could return to action for next year's French Open.

After remaining coy for months about her situation, Sharapova has finally opened up about her difficult four months, saying that the ITF had left her in a clueless position during the entire time. “The I.T.F. didn’t put up a ‘No Left Turn,’” she said. “A sign wasn’t even there; it wasn’t even behind a tree. It was complete false advertisement. It was like it was written on a second-grade piece of paper, folded up and glued to a tree,” Sharapova said.

“If there was a sign, I’d have been, like, O.K. But through this process, there were no signs. And that was something that was obviously very evident in the C.A.S. report, that there were no signs,” she added, in an interview with an American news channel.

The 29-year old also slammed the authorities in failing to put up a system to check on emails that are sent to the athletes. 

“The delegation that the I.T.F. had with the WTA on checking what lists and emails were going out and who was actually receiving these notices — was it players, agents, their doctors — they had no system in place,” she said.

She also wished that no other athlete should suffer through what she had experienced over the past few months.

“That’s something that as I look to the future, I make it very clear that I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. And I will be very much involved in making sure that it doesn’t,” she said.

The Russian also reserved some harsh words for ITF's antidoping chief Stuart Miller regarding her ban.

“I spent four days total in hearings listening to the head of the I.T.F. antidoping, Stuart Miller, giving two testimonies. I’m sitting there just shaking my head on how so many athletes and tennis players are in the hands of someone in his position. I really couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“I was really shocked how little knowledge someone like him had, in his position. When he spoke about meldonium, he didn’t know anything about it. It didn’t strike him that it was so common that maybe more notice was appropriate for Eastern European athletes,” she added.

Sharapova has previously said that she took meldonium for 10 years because of a magnesium deficiency, dizziness and a family history of diabetes. She also questioned how Meldonium, which she knows is legal for medicinal purposes, can be branded as a performance-enhancing drug by the authorities.

“Then it was a question of ‘How is this banned when I knew it was legal, and for that amount of time?’” Sharapova said. “I just couldn’t fathom. And then I was like: ‘How did this happen? Something that is so common — are you sure? I mean, my grandparents take it, and millions of people in Russia.’ In the beginning, I couldn’t believe that.”

Sharapova, 29, also said that she had never considered the prospect of retirement during the past few months which proved to be very difficult times in her career. Speaking about the feeling of resuming her sport, she said, “No matter if I’m in the middle of nowhere in Asia or walking into Arthur Ashe Stadium, it’s the greatest feeling that I have. That’s what I miss. I miss walking out onto my stage because that’s been my stage since I was a young girl,” Sharapova said.

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