LOS ANGELES – Tennis star Maria Sharapova admitted Monday she failed a drug test.
“I take full responsibility for it,” she said. “I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down. I let my sport down.
“I don’t want to end my career this way. … I know many of you thought I was retiring. But if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in this downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.”
She said the drug’s name is Meldonium and had been prescribed by a doctor. She said she has a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. She said the drug was not on the banned list for the last 10 years but as of Jan. 1 the rules changed. She said she does not know yet how long she will be held out of competition. The test was done at the Australian Open in January.
Meldonium is used therapeutically as an anti-ischemic drug to treat patients with angina and myocardial infarction.
A statement from the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed the drug was added to the banned list this year “because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance.”
After the press conference, her attorney, John Haggerty, said “a positive drug test could result in a ban of up to four years” from the International Tennis Federation. But he added that “mitigating circumstances can lead to the elimination of a ban altogether. … We’re still determining what we are going to request of them. I’ve asked them to have a cooperative process.”
The ITF posted a statement on its website from the Tennis Anti-Doping Program that included background on the failed test:
“On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova provided an anti-doping sample to the TADP in association with her participation in the 2016 Australian Open.
“That sample was analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory, which returned a positive for meldonium, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Code and, therefore also the TADP.
“In accordance with Article 8.1.1 of the TADP, Ms Sharapova was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
“Ms Sharapova has accepted the finding of meldonium in her sample collected on 26 January.
“As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case.”
Last week she announced she was pulling out of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells because of a left forearm injury. She withdrew from the 2015 U.S. Open because of a right leg injury.
Sharapova, 28, has won five Grand Slam titles, including Wimbledon in 2004, her first Slam title. She ascended to No. 1 in the rankings in 2005 and later achieved a career Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014.
She has amassed earned almost $37 million in career earnings, second only to Serena Williams, who has earned more than $75 million. But the 6-2, blond-haired Russian has made far more off than court thanks to a slew of lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Porsche, Tiffany and Tag Heuer.
In 2010, she signed a deal with Nike worth $70 million over eight years.
Sharapova, who also has modeled, has drawn attention for her personal life. She once dated Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine and her other boyfriends included Grigor Dimitrov, the Bulgarian tennis star who also dated Serena Williams, and Sasha Vujačić, a Slovenian basketball player now with the New York Knicks.
Sharapova moved from Russia to the United States with her family age 7 and now lives in Manhattan Beach, Calif.