ITF would rather look tough than fair in punishing Maria Sharapova



By Leighton Ginn

The ITF, the same organization that dropped a case believing a kiss caused a positive drug test result, has decided to ban Maria Sharapova for two years for continuing to use meldonium after it was added to the banned list this year.

Meldonium was a drug Sharapova had been taking for years, but it was only added to the banned list at the start of this year.

Failing to check on the banned substance list, Sharapova continued to take the drug, which she said was to address a health issue with her heart.

Two years seems like a long time for a clerical issue.

According to a BBC report, Sharapova claimed the ITF was seeking a four-year ban.

Here’s the problem. I don’t think the ITF  has any consistency on how it determines and enforces issues with performance enhancing.

Richard Gasquet had tested positive for cocaine in 2009, but that was immediately dropped because they believed the French star’s story that he got the drug into his system from missing a girl in a Miami nightclub.

I guess in the eyes of the ITF, that’s more believable.

The ITF did agree that Sharapova didn’t take the drug for performance enhancing and it was more an issue of neglect. That’s two years?

To me, it seems like the ITF gave Sharapova a harsh sentence to give this false impression that it’s tough on drugs.

Sharapova did deserve some kind of punishment. Her neglect is unprofessional. But two years for using the drug illegally for a few weeks? And was it really performance enhancing?

By the timetable Sharapova had provided, she took the drug after she won her first major title, beating Serena Williams in the finals of Wimbledon.

Since taking the drug, Sharapova had never beaten Williams.

A year would have been on the harsh end, but that’s fairly reasonable to get the message across. ITF decided to double down and go over the top.

Better to look tough than fair.

And the ITF should look into other issues of performance enhancing that are legal, but should be questioned.

Rafael Nadal has been very open with the fact he’s been using stem cells to deal with a back issue that has hampered his career. It’s perfectly legal.

But I had a friend who had suffered a stroke years ago. He was trying to get stem cell treatments to improve his condition. Because stem cells are banned in the US, he had to go to Russia.

I’m not claiming that Nadal is doing anything shady or illegal. But his status as an elite player and because of the amounts of money he’s earned, he’s allowed to get treatment that I doubt players outside of the top-10 are afforded. It’s treatment that could change the direction of a player’s career.

I saw a lot of stories, but never heard if the ITF looked into it.

Then there is the case of Simona Halep, who had breast reduction surgery at 17. Like Nadal, she was open about the procedure and said it has helped her reach as high as No. 2 in the world.

I don’t knock Halep for undergoing the procedure, because she also described it as a quality of life issue. But it’s pretty clear it helped her on the court.

If the ITF really is concerned with the credibility of the sport, it really has a lot to look at. Instead, as with this Sharapova case, it looked like they arbitrarily look at a case and enters a ruling that might help its image.

That is not helping tennis.



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