Melbourne: Tennis Australia on Tuesday expressed “surprise” that 2008 Australian Open champion and five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova failed a drug test during the 2016 Australian Open.
In a statement, Australia’s highest tennis body acknowledged the drug test was failed at its tournament, and said Sharapova was “ready” to face any consequences for her actions, reports Xinhua.
“We are surprised by today’s news that Maria Sharapova tested positive to a banned substance during the Australian Open,” the statement read.
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“Throughout her career Maria has always impressed with her professionalism as a leader and role model in our sport. In her press conference Maria said she is prepared to face the consequences of what she describes as a ‘huge mistake’.”
The 28-year-old revealed on Tuesday that she had indeed failed a drug test at the Open; the Russian star explained the a drug she had been prescribed for a pre-existing condition for up to a decade, Meldonium, was added to a banned substance list on January 1, and she had “not known”.
“For 10 years this medicine was not on the banned list, and I had been legally taking it,” Sharapova said.
Sportswear company Nike has already terminated its long-running sponsorship of Sharapova, and said it was “saddened and surprised” by the news.
Tennis Australia also reiterated its commitment to stamping out performance enhancing drugs within its sport.
“Tennis Australia is a long-time signatory to the Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) and as such supports the TADP processes and outcomes,” the statement read.
The news has already sent shock waves through the Australian tennis community; tennis commentator Renae Stubbs tweeted that she was “shocked” by the news, while current Australian men’s player Matthew Ebden was sceptical of Sharapova’s reasoning.
“Doesn’t look that innocent for Sharapova or whoever else took it, this Meldonium stuff but who knows?” he told social media website Twitter.
Leading sports commentators have revealed Sharapova is likely to face either a one or two year ban in place of a possible four-year ban for the “mistake”, which is still under review by world doping authorities.
Sharapova will be provisionally suspended from ITF competition from March 12.