Former world No.1 Maria Sharapova has only herself to blame for testing positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Dick Pound said on Wednesday.
The Russian stunned the sporting world on Monday when she said she had failed a test for meldonium, a drug available in eastern Europe to treat some heart conditions but which has been proven to enhance aerobic endurance.
Five-times grand slam champion Sharapova, the world’s highest-earning sportswoman who raked in nearly $A40 million last year, according to Forbes magazine, said she had taken the drug, which was only added to WADA’s banned list on January 1, for the past decade to treat health problems.
Pound had no sympathy for the 28-year-old though.
“No, there is no excuse,” Canadian Pound, who was attending an anti-doping conference in London, told Reuters.
“This is a woman who won her first Wimbledon title 12 years ago, she is in a sport which is known to have drug problems, she knows she is going to be tested.
“If your are running a $US30 million a year sole proprietorship, I’m sorry you damn well make sure that you don’t do anything that makes you ineligible.”
Pound said WADA had a process in place where Sharapova could have applied for a theraputic use exemption (TUE) but that he was not aware that she had done so.
He also said her positive test should serve as a warning to all tennis players and athletes in other sports who have used meldonium.
“I think this would wake me up,” Pound said. “If you have an IQ higher than room temperature you should stop. There is a test for it and you’ll be bounced.”
Sharapova will be provisionally banned from this weekend while the International Tennis Federation (ITF) decides on what her punishment should be.
A four-year ban is a possibility, although that is thought unlikely in Sharapova’s case.
“There will be a great deal of interest in what the ITF do now and we would look at the punishment very carefully,” WADA president Craig Reedie told reporters.