The president of the Russian Tennis Federation said on Thursday that former world no. 1 Maria Sharapova may never play tennis again after testing positive for meldonium prior to the Australian Open in January.
According to BBC Sport, Shamil Tarpishchev told R-Sport news agency that he believes it is “very doubtful” Sharapova will play future tournaments, adding that she is in a “bad situation”.
Tarpishchev’s latest comments signal a noticeable departure from his staunch defence of Sharapova back in March, when she first announced the positive test in an unexpected press conference many thought would be a retirement announcement.
“I think this is just a load of nonsense,” Shamil Tarpishchev told the Tass news agency in March. “I think Sharapova will play at the Olympics.”
Sharapova explained that she had continued to take meldonium, even after receiving multiple emails that warned it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances for 2016, because she knew it by another name, mildronate.
After the International Tennis Federation provisionally suspended her on March 12, the five-time Grand Slam winner said she was “determined to play tennis again.”
The length and severity of Sharapova’s punishment is still up in the air. She could be suspended for as many as four years, which at 29 would likely mark the end of her career. However, the BBC reports that a six- or 12-month suspension is more likely because in April WADA admitted they were unsure how long meldonium stayed in an athlete’s system.
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