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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Fault For Maria Sharapova In Failed Drug Test

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During the past decade or so, Maria Sharapova has been ranked one of the best tennis players in the world. She has also been among its most recognizable people, thanks to endorsement contracts with major companies—Nike, Porsche, TAG Heuer, Cole Haan, and Evian, to name but a few —and her goodwill work with the United Nations Development Program. And she has achieved the status of 

the highest paid female athlete on the planet. But Sharapova may be remembered for doing something else during that span of time: cheating by taking a drug that is now banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

At a press conference yesterday, Sharapova said that she has been taking a drug called Mildronate for the past 10 years. It was prescribed by her family doctor to help with the health effects of a magnesium deficiency, regular influenza, irregular heart test results, and early signs of diabetes. She didn’t seem to have problems with the drug until a few days ago, which is about the time she received a letter from the International Tennis Federation.

The letter explained that a drug screen at the Australian Open held earlier this year revealed Sharapova had tested positive for Mildronate. That wouldn’t have been an issue in Sydney a year earlier. As of this past January, however, Mildronate is considered a substance banned by WADA.

Mildronate is an anti-ischemic drug. This type of medication is used to help prevent interruptions in the supply of blood to tissues, organs, and extremities. It is usually used for patients with heart disease, though it has shown benefits for people with neurological and other issues where there is decreased blood supply in the body. So, why had WADA officials and medical experts been monitoring the drug for some time before adding it to the banned list?

It’s highly probable those at WADA were learning the same things that others in the anti-doping community were also discovering. As researchers at the German Sport University and the European Monitoring Center for Emerging Doping Agents pointed out in a peer-reviewed study published last year, “Mildronate demonstrates an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions.” The study also makes clear the rising misuse of the drug in sports.

It’s tough to know the details of Sharapova’s complete medical condition. That, of course, is personal, private, and privileged information. But rest assured that there will be be plenty of questioning about why she took a drug suspected of being a performance enhancer.

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