Columnists 11.3.2016 12:00 pm

From sugary bliss to doping doom in minutes

Tamlyn Patterson

Tamlyn Patterson

Every now and then a retirement rocks the sporting world right into its core.

So when Maria Sharapova informed the world that she should be making a major announcement on Monday night, a series of tremors did the rounds among her anxiety-ridden fans on Sunday. Was she really going to call it a day? Have the injuries finally taken their toll? Or, as hoped, was it some update or addition of a flavour to her Sugarpova gummy candy range?

With Denver Broncos legend Peyton Manning already confirming his retirement at the weekend, speculation was rife that the five-time Grand Slam champion would follow suit. Funnily enough, the 28-year-old Russian had paid homage to Manning on Twitter almost exactly a month ago when deciding on an outfit for the Oscars was still her primary concern.

But instead, the world No 7 went from being the sport’s golden girl to a downtown LA villain within a matter of minutes, ugly carpet and all. Stupid and slack have been just some of the adjectives used to describe her failure to click on a link she received from the World Anti-Doping Association three days before Christmas last year.

The 2016 list of prohibited substances and methods had been approved on September 16, 2015 and officially published two weeks later. Whatever her reasons, fact is usage of the Schedule 4 hormonal and metabolic modulator Meldonium was prohibited as soon as the clock struck a minute past midnight on New Year’s Eve. While most reacted with shock and disappointment, others didn’t waste time mincing their words.

Three-time Grand Slam winner and former child protege Jennifer Capriati took to social media to vent her anger in a flurry of tweets. “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,” read the tweet, shortly after Sharapova’s admission.

The American, who quit the WTA in 2004, had her fair share of turbulence after bursting onto the professional scene at the age of 13. This included a charge of being in possession of marijuana in 1994 and shoplifting a year earlier. And the posts kept coming … no less than five within an hour. At the rate Capriati was going, she almost needed something to keep her heart in check.

“If this medication helped me to come back again, would everyone be alright with me taking it?” she asked in reference to the medication which is also used to treat angina. Unlike Capriati and several other tennis stars including Andy Murray, Serena Williams has been a lot softer on Sharapova, who she beat in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in January, a tournament which may be her last for a while, if not ever.

She commended her friend and long-time rival for showing courage in taking responsibility. At least Nike can count on Serena … Tiger Woods, Oscar Pistorius, Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones and now Maria, who’s next?

 

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