Shocked Sharapova peers back doping system

While Maria Sharapova’s fellow players were shocked by the Russian’s announcement that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, most of them felt the “huge mistake” could have been avoided.

World No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland described it as “a very sad day for tennis” but expressed the views of many by saying it was down to every player, via their doctor, to check whether prescribed medications were legal.

Five-times grand slam champion Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, which some researchers have linked to increased athletic performance and endurance, after failing by her own admission to realise it had been outlawed since January 1.

“I don’t check those emails,” Radwanska told reporters on Wednesday about receiving notification of which substances and medications were on the banned list before the start of every year. “That is what my doctor is doing and my agent.

“I am scared because I know every pill can have something in it so when I am sick I am just taking aspirins 100 per cent because I am always afraid that it is going to be something else. (To be safe) I had better play with the flu.”

Eighth-ranked Czech Petra Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, expressed sympathy for Sharapova but felt the doping system was working well.

“Of course it’s not great for her,” the 26-year-old left-hander said while preparing for the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. “It’s something which we all should know, what we are taking and what we are putting into the body.

“It’s a huge mistake unfortunately and she has taken responsibility for it. We see that they (doping authorities) are trying to have a clean sport. The system is working, they are doing a good job on that.”

Sharapova, who faces a ban of up to four years pending an investigation by the International Tennis Federation, has got vocal support from fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova but other players have taken a less charitable view.

Three-time grand slam champion Jennifer Capriati tweeted earlier this week: “I’m extremely angry and disappointed. I had to lose my career and never opted to cheat no matter what. I had to throw in the towel and suffer.

“I didn’t have the high priced team of drs that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up.”

In stark contrast, twice grand slam champion Kuznetsova tweeted on Wednesday: “First of all, I want to say that Maria is a great athlete, and even this “strange mistake” will not be able to outshine all of what she has achieved in tennis.

“And most importantly, none of us, especially me, have no rights to comment this story – not to criticise or evaluate Maria. Doping agency has to see this case, not others.”

American doubles specialist Bethanie Mattek-Sands felt it all boiled down to “due diligence” by the player.

“From my first day as a professional, they tell you that you are responsible for everything that’s in your body,” the 30-year-old told Reuters. “If any of my friends or I go to a doctor, we bring our banned list if we are getting medications.”

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