Please see update at bottom of the post…
The biggest earning female tennis star of the last ten years, Maria Sharapova, yesterday confessed to us all in a well choreographed press conference that she had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium.
Meldonium has only been on the WADA banned list since 1 January 2016 and Sharapova neglected to open an email from WADA advising her of this so kept of taking the medication she was given by a family doctor to reduce the risk of diabetes. She had been taking the drug for the last 10 years.
Lets have a little look as to why the above smells of bullshit…
Now I think (and I may well be wrong) it is feasible that Sharapova may have been taking this for 10 years to enhance their performance legally and has fallen foul of the new WADA code as her and her team were very inept. I am not stating she has done this, I am trying to show the other, more sceptical, side of the argument. Firstly though remember that Meldonium was perfectly legal prior to 1 January 2016 and she was able quite legally to take it. Whether she should have morally is another argument. Please read below and make your own mind up:
Maria moved to the United States when she was around 7-8 years old and has lived in the US ever since. Meldonium isn’t licensed in the United States for the treatment of anything. That means a family doctor in the US would not prescribe it.
Meldonium is a drug that is used to treat angina, myocardial infarction and chronic heart failure. Having done a little research there isn’t much out there on the internet that advises it is used in the treatment of diabetes or reducing the risk of diabetes.
- Decreased levels of lactate and urea in blood
- Improved economy of glycogen: level of glycogen increased in the cells during the long-lasting exercise
- Increased endurance properties and aerobic capabilities of athletes
- Improved functional parameters of heart activity
- Increased physical work capabilities
- Increased rate of recovery after maximal and sub-maximal loads
- Activates CNS functions and protects against stress
And he also goes on to make the point that “Some of the above effects published in the review article were reported from this study. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the research into this topic is only published in Russian”. Quite interesting when recently some 17% of tested Russian athletes had this in their system prior to WADA banning the drug.
An ARD doping documentary aired two days ago featured news that a high number of Russian athletes were testing positive for Meldomium in 2015, 1 in 5 to be exact. Now they can’t all have heart failure or be trying to prevent diabetes. It would appear Russian athletes have been taking this stuff for some time for reasons other than the treatment of medical conditions.
One final point worth making is Sharapova claims to have taken the drug for 10 years. This would put the date that she first took Meldonium at around 2005/6.
Most clinical trials of the drug didn’t start until 2008. She would have been pretty hard pressed to get any doctor to prescribe it to her prior to this, Russian or otherwise. And remember it’s STILL NOT LICENSED in the US.
Sharapova rose to No 1 in the world in 2005. In 2006 she enjoyed more success but in 2007 fell out of the top 5 struggling with injury after injury. A drug that could help you train harder and recover quicker would have been helpful with repeat injuries. Even if Maria was taking it to stop diabetes the side effects described would have been an unfair advantage over her competitors.
She returned back to No 1 in 2012 following more injuries and a shoulder operation. Even a third shoulder injury in 2013 didn’t stop her coming back in 2014 to win the French Open and then going on to the Australian Open final in 2015 without dropping a set. Pretty impressive when she has been dogged with injury all her career.
Sharapova is an immensely gifted tennis player but by her own admission she has been taking a performance enhancing drug, legally until 1 January 2016, for the majority of her professional tennis career.
She claims this is for the treatment of potential diabetes. There are many drugs out there designed for that purpose more so than Meldonium. Why not take them? A US family doctor would not prescribe her Meldonium.
She claims she didn’t open the WADA email. She would have had emails 18 months before as the drug was put on the WADA watch list. The ITF would have emailed her. WADA have a little leaflet for athletes to tell them what’s banned and whats not. The Australian Open have a players meeting before the tournament to discuss this stuff. She pays out lots of money to a manager, coach, nutritionalist and doctor all who’s responsibility it is to keep her out of harms way. None of them knew?
When you look at the full picture the one that Sharapova paints seems poor. Something that your child would do at nursery – certainly not a Picasso. Because you love your child you think it’s the best picture ever though. That’s what Team Sharapova are counting on. Her fans love her and will accept every word.
I think it’s pretty immoral but perfectly legal to take Meldonium prior to 2016 for whatever reason. To be honest if you have heart failure you aren’t going to be threatening the No 1 spot any time soon.
She continued to take it beyond January 2016 and I do not believe for one minute that no one in her team or Sharapova herself knew it wasn’t banned. But it is a possibility and we will have to take her word for it.
I predict a 6 month ban and she’ll be back playing before the end of the year. Just in time for the 2017 Australian Open in fact. That’ll be a new story in itself. Soon after that she’ll retire having won lots and lots of money and no one will remember this little blip in an otherwise fantastic, legal drug aided, career.
I leave you with two final thoughts:
9/3/2016 Update – Sharapova stated that magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes lead to her taking the drug. Recently Channel 4 News asked the drug manufacturer if the drug was effective in treating these issues. They advised that their drug has no effect on these medical complaints.