Earlier this year, former World No 1 Maria Sharapova received two-year ban from tennis after testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA list.
Meldonium, which was found to be a performance enhancer, was banned late in 2015, with Sharapova admitting she had tested positive during the 2016 Australian Open. Handed a two-year ban from tennis, Sharapova maintained her innocence, saying that she had been taking the medication to cope with cardiac issues.
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal were among those who lauded the ban on the Russian, saying it had been the right decision in the spirit of the game.
Now, Sharapova has found support from another quarter. Former top-ranked player Andre Agassi, in an interview with Italian newshouse La Stampa, said that drug controls “have changed vastly” since he played the game.
After Agassi’s retirement and the release of his autobiography, Open, the American ace admitted to having used crystal methamphetamine during his playing career, and spoke at length of the alibi he used – one that was accepted at the time by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), with Agassi able to retain the titles he had won.
At the time, Agassi had alleged that his assistant at the time had spiked the pair’s drinks with methamphetamine, which he avered did not enhance his performance.
Speaking out in support of Sharapova and her positive test, Agassi told the Italian paper yesterday, “I know her well. She had a lot more to gain than she had to lose,” he said. When the revelations of Sharapova’s positive test first emerged, the Russian ace and her spokesperson alleged that she had been unaware of meldonium being listed on the banned substances roster issued by WADA, which for its part said all athletes had been warned of the changing list well in advance.
Sharapova had then said she had “missed out on seeing” each circular and email WADA had issued to all concerned athletes, and had a long-standing medical condtion that had necessitated her use of meldonium.
Agassi said in the interview that he believed Sharapova’s explanation,saying she had “far more to lose than to win”, and that the ace missed out because she simply “did not know” the drug had been banned.
The former US Open champion recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his retirement.