Since reading WADA’S verdict, I have run this through my mind several times and here are my major takeaways.
1.) Sharapova did not start out cheating, but it is just about evident she continued taking Meldonium after 2012, on less than morally just circumstances. She better have a genius explanation for why she concealed her use of the drug from the rest of her team (members whose very roles dictated that they needed to know what she put in her body at all times), why she was taking a whooping 500mg, and why her dosage just HAD TO BE before competitive matches. Most of you know I actually belonged to the school of thought which said “Let’s not jump to conclusions.” Turns out, we might as well have. The behavioral patterns (omission, avoidance, secrecy and timing) are all cheating patterns. What is tragic about this is that if she believed Meldonium was going to give her a competitive advantage, she might be scientifically wrong based on whatever research has been done – admittedly not much.
2.) Though I find the verdict a fair one, it still does not exempt WADA’s process from criticism. It is clear their process (drug research, notification process and the like) was very flawed and they are going to have to fix that. The general rule in a test is if too many people are passing it or failing it, there’s a problem with the test. In this case, 300 positive tests since January, was mega massive. 300+ people couldn’t have been that careless. WADA’s image was also tainted in this. Professional players have to be confident in their governing bodies. Backtracks like the one they had to do on the Meldonium performance enhancing assertion HAVE TO BE avoided at all costs as it erodes the authority of their statements.
3.) It has been a learning process for all. And no this is not a Sharapova problem. Tennis has been hit and hit hard. It is up to all lovers, players, and participants of the game to make sure it fully recovers from this. No player is bigger than the game, we should all remember that.
4.) As for Sharapova, I must say I am highly disappointed. Being age mates with her, her breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2004, was a dream and an inspiration. Her story was a symbol. Her dad’s joy, an euphoric moment. I took it as a call to action. “Dare to dream, move to achieve and you can live that dream.” So it is disheartening. I still wish her a recovery from this. No lesson or punishment should be eternally damaging. So I hope she rights the ship. We all make mistakes, we all take the wrong turn. We all fall and we all CAN get back up.