Five-time Grand Slam champion and Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has said that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open due to a drug she has been taking for 10 years for health issues.
The 28-year-old Sharapova will be provisionally suspended starting March 12, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said.
She is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium. Meldonium is used to treat heart trouble, including angina and heart failure. It was added to the banned list beginning this year, with the World Anti-Doping Agency saying there was evidence it has been used by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.
“I made a huge mistake. I have let my fans down and I let the sport down,” said Sharapova. “I take full responsibility for it.”
“I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my tennis career this way. I hope that I will be given another chance to play this game,” Sharapova told reporters in a Los Angeles hotel.
The ITF’s anti-doping programme calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test, but that ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as for first-time offences or if the player shows no significant fault or negligence. If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.
The ITF said that the former world No. 1 had tested positive on January 26 and had accepted the finding when she was notified on March 2.
Her attorney, John Haggerty, said the positive test could carry a ban of up to four years, but that mitigating circumstances could see a lesser penalty.