Wednesday 7 December 2016

Paul Kimmage: ‘Laughable’ Maria Sharapova story ‘defies credibility’

Published 08/03/2016 | 20:14

Paul Kimmage believes there are “holes all over Maria Sharapova’s story” following her drug test failure and predicts it will have a huge impact on tennis.

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Five-time grand slam winner Sharapova announced yesterday she had tested positive for a substance called meldonium at this year's Australian Open.

Meldonium was placed on the banned list by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at the beginning of the year, having been part of its monitoring programme throughout 2015.

Sharapova, who said she had legally taken the medication throughout her career to deal with health issues including an irregular heartbeat, will be provisionally suspended from tennis later this week and could face a ban of up to four years.

Speaking to Matt Cooper on Today FM’s The Last Word yesterday evening, Sunday Independent columnist said there are many questions that remain unanswered in relation to Sharapova’s case.

“She lives in Manhattan Beach. This medicine [Meldonium] is not licenced for use in the US. Why has she been using this drug for 10 years, when the normal course of treatment for the drug is four-six weeks?” he questioned.

“Has she declared this use on any of her anti-doping forms? That will bear out what she has been saying.

“Is she anywhere on record in the past talking about this condition?

“That’s the problem. She’s been given great credit for “taking control of this” and going on record and being up front on this, telling the world about it, but unfortunately there are holes all over her story.

“It’s a bit laughable to say the least."

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Some of the 28-year-old’s sponsors have already taken action. Tag Heuer say it will not renew their contract with the tennis star which runs out at the end of the year, while Nike has decided to suspend their deal while the investigation continues.

Over the last ten years, a number of tennis stars have had doping bans reduced on appeal or quashed entirely. Marin Cilic was given a nine-month ban in three years ago, which was subsequently reduced to four months. Cilic won his first grand slam title at the US Open the following year.

Andre Agassi admitted in his autobiography he failed a test in 1997 but the governing body believed it was accidental and the test remained a secret, while Richard Gasquet and Greg Rusedski were both cleared of any wrongdoing after testing positive for cocaine and nandrolone respectively.

“I don’t believe anybody with half a brain would believe that there wasn’t any doping in tennis, I just thought we’d never hear about it,” Kimmage told listeners.” That’s the way this ship has been run for the past three or four decades. Everything is kept in-house.

“They [tennis players] think they are immune to the normal laws in sport.

“It defies credibility that, number one, she got this email and didn’t look at it, but also the people that surround her, that they weren’t telling her, ‘We’ve got to off this now, we have got to use something else’.”

Kimmage believes the developments will have a lasting effect on the sport.

“Today the world has changed, tennis has changed.  The die-hard tennis fan will watch, the general fan, it won’t be the same for them again.”

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