Days after admitting to failing a doping test at the 2016 Australian Open, Maria Sharapova has returned to training buoyed by the possibility she may escape significant sanction through a legal loophole.
Experts claimed Sharapova could receive a four-year ban for her positive test to the drug meldonium, however Sharapova’s lawyer was confident of a lenient punishment.
It was reported that the Russian’s legal team might argue for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), as Sharapova had taken meldonium for 10 years for medical reasons.
However, an expert told The New Daily he doubted this would provide her with a total loophole.
While accepting “full responsibility” for the positive test, Sharapova maintained she did not intentionally use the drug to dope.
She claimed she had been originally taking the substance for a number of reasons, including regular bouts of illness and a family history of diabetes.
Sharapova got into trouble when she missed the World Anti Doping Authority placing the drug on its banned list for 2016 and then tested positive for the substance in January.
The 28-year-old has lost sponsors, including Nike, putting the value of her $A265 million fortune at risk.
“Maria and I are looking at all of her options,” Sharapova’s lawyer John J. Haggerty told News Ltd.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that this was intentional on Maria’s behalf.
“Therefore that immediately reduces it (the ban) down to two years as a maximum. I believe that there are substantial mitigating factors that require a further reduction from two years down to significantly below that.
Haggerty added Sharapova’s medical records would prove she needed the medication.
“And the dosage Maria was taking was substantially less than any dosage that has been linked with the performance-enhancing attributes of mildronate (another term for meldonium).”
‘There is no loophole’: expert
An anti-doping expert told The New Daily that Sharapova seemed to have learnt from the Essendon 34, who were banned for one year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in early 2016.
Victoria University associate professor in sport ethics Dennis Hemphill said the Essendon players “were thought by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be complicit and secretive about the supplements regime”.
Conversely he said that Sharapova had made the effort to “be as open as possible”.
Despite that, he said “we can expect that she will be found guilty of a doping violation.
“I am not sure that there is a loophole that might see her found not guilty.”
It seemed the best she could hope for was a reduced sentence, he added.
“It remains to be seen if these mitigating factors her lawyer speaks of, taken together, might mean no suspension at all.”
Nadal: ‘Terrible news for our sport’
Fourteen-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal was angry when asked about the latest doping scandal to embroil tennis.
“It is terrible news for our sport,” Nadal said. “It is terrible because our sport must be clean and look clean.
“The good news is we have a good anti-doping program.”
Nadal has been publicly accused of doping twice – once by the former Spanish minister for health and sport Roselyne Bachelot and then by banned tennis player Daniel Koellerer.
When asked about the accusations, Nadal responded: “No f****** way, forget about it.
“I have never had the temptation of doing something wrong.
“I am very far from that, doping. I am a completely clean guy. I worked so hard during my career that when I get injured I never take nothing (banned) to be back quicker.”
Koeller had claimed Nadal’s blistering return to tennis after a seven-month knee injury break in 2012 was suspicious.
Ms Bachelot alleged that Nadal’s lengthy 2014 to 2015 injury lay-off was because of a drug scandal cover up.