Won’t retire in a hotel with an ugly carpet: Twitter reacts to Sharapova

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 09, 2016 15:10 IST
Maria Sharapova announced in a press conference on Monday that she had tested positive for banned drug Meldonium, following which she will be provisionally suspended with effect from March 12. (Reuters Photo)

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova announced in a press conference on Monday that she had tested positive for banned drug Meldonium, following which she will be provisionally suspended with effect from March 12. The quantum of her punishment is yet to be announced.

A sample Sharapova provided after her loss to Serena Williams at this year’s Australian Open was found to contain the drug, which is known to boost oxygen uptake and endurance. Effective from January 1 this year, Meldonium was put on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances after the doping watchdog found evidence of several athletes using it to enhance performance.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is a Latvian-manufactured drug popular for fighting heart disease in former Soviet Union countries and is little-known in the US, where Sharapova resides. The five-time Grand Slam champion said she began using the drug in 2006 to counter “several health issues,” including a magnesium deficiency, the flu, irregular ECG results and early signs of diabetes, of which she has a family history.

Sharapova and all players were notified of the changes in the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned substances list in December. The Russian claimed she simply missed the change, neglecting to click on the link.

The news was shocking, to say the least.

It’s rare for a tennis player to test positive for a performance-enhancing drug. It’s virtually unheard of for a player to announce it themselves, let alone one as high profile as Sharapova.

But the main reason why the news was so shocking was perhaps because it was so unexpected. Once the Russian announced the press conference on Twitter on Monday, social media was rife with speculation as to what it could be about.

The prime suspect was a possible retirement. Since her loss to Serena Williams in Wimbledon last year, Sharapova has only played in four events, retiring in her first match in one of them. She also withdrew from the US Open, the China Open, the Brisbane International, last month’s Qatar Open and this week’s Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open, arguably the biggest tournament on tour after the Slams.

Given her long struggle with injuries, it would not have been all that surprising if the Russian had decided to call it quits.

Members of the tennis community were some of the first to react to the news.

Former player and three-time Grand Slam champion Jennifer Capriati was particularly critical of Sharapova.

“I know that with this, I face consequences,” Sharapova said. “I don’t want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”

There were those that sided with the Russian. Serena Williams, Sharapova’s biggest rival, said the Russian “showed a lot of courage” in taking responsibility for her actions. But many also expressed how important it is for a professional sportsperson to know what they can and can’t put in their bodies.

There were also those that saw Sharapova’s announcement as a way to present her side of the story first, effectively taking control of the narrative. Her failure to check the WADA list also came in for flak.

Sharapova, herself, was aware, of the speculation about her retirement. In a rare moment of humour during the announcement, she put those rumours to rest. “If I was going to announce my retirement, it wouldn’t be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet,” she said.

And then there were those that saw a bit of humour in the entire situation.

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