Maria Sharapova has been given a two-year ban from professional tennis for her use of meldonium, a substance banned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). (Meldonium, a metabolic modulator, was found to boost athletic performance.) Sharapova tested positive at this year’s Australian Open, a fact she revealed in March. The two-year ban begins retroactively beginning in January 2016, meaning Sharapova would next be able to compete after the 2018 Australian Open, when she will be 30. Sharapova, who is appealing the ban, said she had been taking meldonium for years and failed to read that it would be placed on the banned list, which happened in January.
Sharapova is among the brightest lights in tennis. A champion who burst onto the scene with a Wimbledon victory (over Serena Williams) in 2004, she has become a marketing phenom and a career Grand Slam winner with six major titles in all. The sole blight on her record is that for more than a decade Sharapova has found her rival Serena Williams insurmountable. The powerful Williams has utterly dominated Sharapova, winning 17 of their 19 matches. (Sharapova’s only wins coming all the way back in 2004.) If the ultimate victory is to get the other side to wear themselves out trying to beat you (a la Muhammad Ali), indeed to get them to try anything — even a metabolic modulator — to find an edge, then Serena Williams has just scored the ultimate victory over Maria Sharapova. For while even with meldonium’s help Sharapova couldn’t vanquish Williams, it’s hard to imagine Sharapova taking any performance enhancing drug without Williams in the back — if not the front — of her mind.