2015: Australian Open finalist. But just one year later, Maria Sharapova was banned after the very same tournament. Sharapova’s failed drug test following testing positive for meldonium, divided opinion across the sport.
Reportedly used as a political tool in the shaky Russian-American relationship according to Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, Sharapova received a two-year ban from tennis in June, from the International Tennis Federation.
The former No.1’s five grand slams and $36,484,486 in prize money, counted for nothing; the Russian was a cheat. Robbing the sport of honesty, and throwing its integrity into question via the maximising of oxygen output through illegal means; gaining an unfair advantage. Yet, the Russian is back, and just 15 months after her ban.
It seems strange that top players in the sport are welcoming the Russian’s return. For a sport not as stained with corruption as others, Sharapova’s doing pushed the integrity of it greater than anyone to recent date. Why fellow players are welcoming the return only questions her initial actions:
“It will be nice to have her back in the game. She has an opportunity to come back and continue her career. I think she should be allowed to continue that.”
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With some tennis pros and media outlets embracing the former No. 1’s return, it highlights the unjust treatment of a player such as Nick Kyrgios. A player tennis needs, someone actually willing to break the robotic nature of the game which has become more of a PC minefield than witnessed at the Houses of Commons (although that’s not hard).
And still, the Australian comes under heavy fire, still he experiences a tough time in the media; his actions are minimal to Sharapova’s. So, is Maria’s return too soon?
The answer is probably not; it’s a reasonable infliction of standards in return for the offence. Particularly when you compare other examples of punishment for athletes tested for meldonium, Sharapova is right up there in terms of being ‘clamped down on’.
The Russian needed to be made an example of considering her high-profile status, her global brand, and contracts with all the corporate giants. Where Sharapova should be questioned, though, is through her lack of rehabilitation and accepting she has done wrong. The Russian athlete has only recently joked upon her time out from the sport where she attended music festival, Coachella:
“I was like ‘oh so this is what it’s about. There is a 120,000 [people] doing drugs that I am not aware of…
I am skipping Coachella this year. I got my day job back!”
Such casual regard to her actions imply a lack of remorse which needed to be delivered upon her return. To not allow further use of the banned substance in the game, the highest-profile athlete utilising the drug should be condemning its use above all.
We’ll see how Sharapova fairs at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Germany next month (April), but a combination of being out of the sport for so long, coupled without the addition of a substance aiding her for the previous 10 years, may well see the Russian’s progression to the major rounds in the up and coming events, not so likely.
Take a look at Maria in action before her ban…