12 Mar 2016

Sharapova hits back

7:33 pm on 12 March 2016

Five-times grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova has hit out at accounts of her doping case that she termed "wrong" in an open letter to her fans on Facebook.

Maria Sharapova during her quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams at the 2016 Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova during her quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams at the 2016 Australian Open. Photo: Photosport

Sharapova, who tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January, is facing a suspension of up to four years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and has already lost numerous sponsorships in the aftermath.

The former world number one thanked her fans for their "tremendous outpouring of support" before launching into a critique of what she believed were some inaccurate reports.

"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," Sharapova wrote.

The 28-year-old Russian said she was making no excuses for not knowing about the ban that went into effect on Jan. 1, but said that after the first announcement, other notices were "buried in newsletters, websites, or handouts."

"Again, no excuses, but it's wrong to say I was warned five times," said Sharapova, who has said she took the drug for 10 years due to a family history of heart issues and diabetes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added meldonium to their banned substance list after concluding that it improves blood flow and boosts exercise capacity.

"I'm proud of how I have played the game. I have been honest and upfront," Sharapova 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."

Meanwhile, WADA said they have recorded 99 positive tests for meldonium.

WADA did not name the athletes who tested positive for the drug, but said they came from different sports and were reported by many national anti-doping organisations.

"We can confirm that since 1 January 2016 when the substance Meldonium became banned, there have been 99 adverse analytical findings for Meldonium recorded," WADA spokesman Ben Nichols said.

"These cases were analyzed by a number of different WADA-accredited laboratories and reported by many different international sport federations."

Meldonium, which is manufactured for people with heart problems, was added to WADA's list of banned substances on Jan. 1 and can improve exercise capacity.

-Reuters

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