Maria Sharapova has denied reports that she was warned five times that the drug she was taking, meldonium, had been added to the banned list.
The Russian, who faces a lengthy suspension after testing positive at the Australian Open in January, admits she failed to open one email received on 22 December. But in a statement on her Facebook page posted on Friday night, the former world No1 said the reports were inaccurate, clarified how often she took the drug and said she was not willing to pretend to have an injury to keep the news quiet.
“A report said that I had been warned five times about the upcoming ban on the medicine I was taking. That is not true and it never happened,” she said. “That’s a distortion of the actual ‘communications’ which were provided or simply posted on to a webpage.
“I make no excuses for not knowing about the ban. I already told you about the December 22, 2015 email I received. Its subject line was “Main Changes to the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme for 2016.” I should have paid more attention to it. But the other “communications”? They were buried in newsletters, websites or handouts.”
Sharapova said she received another email on 18 December, entitled “Player News”, inside which was a warning buried deep down. “In order to be aware of this ‘warning’, you had to open an email with a subject line having nothing to do with anti-doping, click on a webpage, enter a password, enter a username, hunt, click, hunt, click, hunt, click, scroll and read. I guess some in the media can call that a warning. I think most people would call it too hard to find.”
Sharapova also said the warning contained a different name for the medication she was taking. Her lawyer told the Guardian earlier this week that she had been prescribed mildronate but she tested positive for meldonium. The ITF also told the Guardian that she had been sent five email notifications. The Russian posted a photo of a “wallet card” which was handed out at tournaments after the ban began. “This document had thousands of words on it, many of them technical, in small print,” she said. “Should I have studied it? Yes. But if you saw this document, you would know what I mean. Again, no excuses, but it’s wrong to say I was warned five times.”
On Monday Sharapova said she had been taking the drug for 10 years. The manufacturers recommend a four- to six-week course of treatment, two to three times per year, with only a doctor able to recommend a longer course of treatment. “I didn’t take the medicine every day,” she said. “I took it the way my doctor recommended I take it and I took it in the low doses recommended.” And Sharapova said she had refused to fake an injury just to keep the news quiet. “I’m proud of how I have played the game. I have been honest and upfront. I won’t pretend to be injured so I can hide the truth about my testing,” she said. “I look forward to the ITF hearing at which time they will receive my detailed medical records.
“I hope I will be allowed to play again. But no matter what, I want you, my fans, to know the truth and have the facts.”
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