The way tennis players have responded to Maria Sharapova’s positive drugs test has been slammed by fellow professional and Russian compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Sharapova has been regularly criticised in public since she announced in March that she had tested positive to the banned substance at this year’s Australian Open.
“I am shocked by these comments,” Kuznetsova said from the French Open in an interview with Russia’s SovSport.
“Behind the scenes [I] have to listen to what they say. It’s horrible.”
Sharapova has attempted to justify her use of meldonium – an anti-ischemic drug that improves circulation, particularly in the brain, but is used to treat heart conditions – by saying she had taken it for 10 years due to a magnesium deficiency.
She faced an anti-doping hearing at an undisclosed location last week, with a verdict expected within the next month.
Dominika Cibulkova was the most vociferous of Sharapova’s critics, saying that the Russian – who famously isolates herself on tour from other players – was “totally unlikeable” and “arrogant, conceited and cold”.
The public reaction
The criticism is even worse in the locker room, according to Kuznetsova, who says she struggles listening to the constant bad-mouthing of her Davis Cup teammate.
When asked about the solidarity between players on tour, she said: “Solidarity! What are you talking about?!
“The smiling face, and turn your back [and] shoot. We have good people … and there are those who are jealous.
“I think Masha [Maria] knows my attitude. Her agent came up and thanked me for my support.
“I always say my opinion as it is.”
Kuznetsova also gave her view on meldonium – and just how careful she has to be around medicine.
“At any clinic, this [meldonium] is prescribed as standard medication,” she said.
“If I have something that hurts, or a runny nose … I immediately ask because I’m afraid to take something. I’m really scared.
“In the children’s [cough] syrup, for example, is ephedrine.
“Any cream for the skin, I go to consult a doctor. Only the pharmacist can know what medication contains what prohibited item.
“I know girls who have problems with their face [and] skin for life … but they cannot [use medication] because it is forbidden.”
Sharapova ‘back in five minutes’
While she is not in action at Roland Garros, Sharapova was keeping busy as she helped launching a new chocolate range for her candy brand, Sugarpova.
The event, held in Chicago, was headlined by a happy and relaxed-looking Sharapova.
The t-shirt she wore to the event was particularly notable for the ‘Back in 5 Minutes’ text emblazoned on it.
Sharapova, who has not played since the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne, is hoping to overturn her drug ban on account of the fact WADA are unsure how long meldonium remains in an athlete’s system.
Since her drugs ban started, Sharapova has attended fashion shows, holidayed in Paris and regularly worked on her fitness and tennis skills.
Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev said last week it was “very doubtful” that Sharapova would play tennis again.
But he moved to clear the air and later said: “I only said she can’t play now because no ruling on her case has been issued.”
Sharapova faces a maximum four-year ban from tennis.
The 28-year-old, who was the highest-paid woman in sport before announcing she had failed a drug test, is a five-time grand slam champion.