American tennis legend Serena Williams has criticised those who use drugs in sport in a powerful open letter to her mother about becoming a parent.
Williams posted the letter on social news website Reddit, which was co-founded by her fiancee, Alexis Ohanian.
The 35-year-old spent much of the letter discussing body image and her mother’s class under pressure, but also touched on doping after her arch-rival, Maria Sharapova, was suspended for 15 months for a positive drug test.
Sharapova returned to the tennis tour this year and has recently opened up about her testy relationship with Williams in her new book.
“I’ve been called [a] man because I appeared outwardly strong,” Williams wrote.
“It has been said that that [sic] I use drugs (No, I have always had far too much integrity to behave dishonestly in order to gain an advantage).
“It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports – that I belong in men’s – because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this badass body and proud of it).”
Williams, who has won 23 grand slam singles titles, began the letter by discussing her new daughter Alexis and her body.
“Dear Mom, you are one of the strongest women I know,” she wrote.
Dear Mom, You are one of the strongest women I know. I was looking at my daughter (OMG, yes, I have a daughter 😳) and she has my arms and legs! My exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. I don't know how I would react if she has to go through what I've gone through since I was a 15 year old and even to this day…. Read the rest on my @Reddit profile. Link in bio.
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“I was looking at my daughter (OMG, yes, I have a daughter) and she has my arms and legs!
“My exact same strong, muscular, powerful, sensational arms and body. I don’t know how I would react if she has to go through what I’ve gone through since I was a 15 year old and even to this day.”
Referring back to those who suggested she should instead play men’s tennis, Williams wrote: “Mom, I’m not sure how you did not go off on every single reporter, person, announcer and quite frankly, hater, who was too ignorant to understand the power of a black woman.
“I am proud we were able to show them what some women look like. We don’t all look the same.
“We are curvy, strong, muscular, tall, small, just to name a few, and all the same: we are women and proud!
“You are so classy, I only wish I could take your lead. I am trying, though, and God is not done with me yet. I have a LONG way to go, but thank you.
“Thank you for being the role model I needed to endure all the hardships that I now regard as a challenges [sic] – ones that I enjoy.
“I hope to teach my baby Alexis Olympia the same and have the same fortitude you have had.”
Williams is hopeful of returning to the tennis tour in 2018 as she eyes off Margaret Court’s record of 24 women’s grand slam singles titles.