On March 7, 2016 Maria Sharapova hastily assembled a press conference in Los Angeles, announcing her failed drug test after the 2016 Australian Open.
Sharapova statement of admission: “For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF (International Tennis Federation) letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know. It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned list, and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past 10 years. But on 1 January the rules had changed, and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known. I failed the test and I take full responsibility for it. I made a huge mistake.”
Speculation beforehand was that the 28-year old tennis superstar was announcing her retirement, after a series of injuries & disappointing tournament finishes. Sharapova responded, “If I was ever going to announce my retirement, it would probably not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.” For the record, it was ugly carpet at the hotel, as seen at the beginning of the press conference in the video above.
Sharapova says she did not look at the new banned substances list, linked in a WADA email she received. She claims she deleted it without clicking the link, and was thus unaware the prescription drug she had legally used for 10 years, was about to be banned. WADA rules mandate a 2-year ban for ‘unintentional’ doping, and a 4-year ban for ‘intentional’ doping for first-time offenders.
Sharapova cited her meldonium use as necessary for “a deficiency in magnesium, irregular EKG results, and a family history of diabetes with one of the first signs of diabetes… and [meldonium] was one of the medications, along with others I received.”
Maria Sharapova is undoubtedly a rock star. As one can see by her Facebook post, she still has fans– over 112K ‘Likes’ in less than 8 hours. Sharapova is stunningly beautiful, along with being smart enough to get ahead of the press & her fans. That’s how to handle them.
She’s now fighting to protect her brand, which is exactly what top athletes do in competition– in order to win at the highest levels of professional sports.
No one should be surprised by this anymore. Professional athletes are all pushed, one way or another, into this taint. Maria Sharapova is only the latest sports icon turned into scapegoat, in order to distract fans from the true sources of corruption. Ironically, her announcement came the same day NFL quarterback Peyton Manning delivered his long-anticipated retirement speech, in which he broke down and cried repeatedly before finishing with a nauseating “God bless football.”
If Manning can shake the HGH & sexual harassment allegations which still persist, many lucrative business opportunities await him. If not, he will become the next Lance Armstrong. Carefully compare their simultaneous press conferences (and circumstances), and you’ll see that Peyton Manning doesn’t have Sharapova’s composure or brains– so anticipate the latter scenario.
Lance Armstrong on sports doping: “I don’t know what the number is, whether it’s 10 or 20 or 50%, I don’t know. That tells you that that system is broken, too. It’s probably the reason that Travis [Tygart] and the USADA [U.S.Anti-Doping Agency] needed something. They needed a case, they needed a story. I was that story, I was that case, it is what it is, and we’re here. But they needed something to show that they were effective. And they did, and it worked.” 
Anti-doping advocate Greg LeMond: “When I speak out about doping people could translate it and think it was about the riders. Actually I feel like I am an advocate for the riders. I look at them as being treated like lab rats that are test vehicles for the doctors. The doctors, the management, the officials, they’re the ones that have corrupted riders. The riders are the only ones that pay the price.” 
WADA was created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1999 to “promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports.” Its presidents Dick Pound (1999-2007), John Fahey (2008-13), and now Craig Reedie (below) have been continuously rocked by corruption & doping scandals. The closed systems used by all the official anti-doping agencies do not allow independent statistical validation of their tests. IOC/WADA testing identifies <1% of all PED (performance-enhancing drug) users.
Taking a hard-line stance in high profile cases such as Maria Sharapova, obfuscates their overall ineffectiveness in the eyes of most sports fans. Image is everything. WADA president Craig Reedie has warned that it will step in if it believes that the ITF’s ban for Sharapova is too lenient: “We always have that right. In most cases we exercise that right when we think there is a really serious case to answer,” he said. “There will clearly be a great deal of interest after the last 48 hours in what the ITF do. My guess is we will watch this one very carefully.”
For comparison, men’s tennis star Marin Cilic (Croatia) was suspended for nine months in 2013-14, after testing positive for a banned stimulant, nikethamide. After returning to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour, Cilic won the U.S. Open in 2014.
Maria Sharapova is the highest-paid female athlete in the world, according to Forbes magazine.  She has/had endorsement deals with Nike, Avon, Evian, TAG Heuer, Canon, Cole Haan, Ericsson, Gatorade, Head, Land Rover, Motorola, Porsche, Prince, Samsung, Sony, Tiffany’s and Tropicana. So far– Porsche, Nike & TAG Heuer have suspended ties with Sharapova.
WADA has focused on Russia ever since the German state news station ARD broadcast the documentary Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces Its Winners, in December 2014. WADA used the evidence in the film to target the widespread use of meldonium by Russian athletes. Numerous Russian athletes describe their experiences in state-sponsored programs, where over 99% of competitors are compelled by coaches & higher authorities to use PEDs.
Compulsion towards PED use in American sports begins with pharmaceutical & Madison Avenue bombardment, in the form of ceaseless commercials for new drugs. The U.S. is the primary market for pharmaceutical companies, accounting for one-third of the global market. Lack of regulation means there are few barriers in marketing & distribution, once FDA approval has been secured.
‘Selling sickness’ to a healthy population is now considered standard pharmaceutical industry practice in the U.S.  The Affordable Care Act has made chemically refined prescription drugs more the form of treatment for physicians, while increasing their cost to consumers, with no controls over the prices that insurance & pharmaceutical corporations can charge under Obamacare.  The side-effects portions of prescription drug commercials are often more than half their running length, with a professional voice-over mono-toning at breakneck speed.
Combined with skyrocketing salaries for top athletes, the current model for illicit PED use is private-sector chemists & physicians (with questionable ethics) developing new drugs for athletes, keeping them ahead of the testers. PEDs can only be detected if there is a test for that particular drug– or class of drugs. Testing for every banned substance is prohibitively expensive for most organizations, especially at the youth & high-school levels.
‘New’ PEDs are often previously developed pharmaceuticals, originally intended for medicinal uses in elderly & sickly populations. For example, Sharapova’s meldonium (Mildronate) is an anti-ischemic drug developed in Latvia to treat angina and prevent heart attacks. In athletes it demonstrates increased endurance, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activation of the central nervous system. 
Telmisartan (Micardis) is a prescription drug for high blood pressure, manufactured by Roxane in Columbus, OH. It is also frequently abused by top athletes, but it is accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is not on the WADA banned substances list– nor is the class of drugs to which it belongs.
Cytomel (T3) is a thyroid hormone, developed, patented & manufactured by U.S pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, to treat hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is defined as a deficiency of thyroid hormones– which can disrupt heart rate, body temperature, and all aspects of metabolism. Hypothyroidism is most prevalent in older women. Treatment typically consists of thyroid hormone replacement.
Cytomel, has been popular among bodybuilders for decades for its ability to promote rapid fat & weight loss. It is used by wrestlers & boxers, to come in under weight. One of the most important determinants of success in cycling is power to weight ratio, particularly in the mountains. Any substance which can help riders lose body fat provides a competitive advantage in cycling.
Track athletes have also used thyroid hormones for perceived performance-enhancing effects beyond those associated with weight loss. Victor Conte, the architect of the infamous BALCO steroid program, included T3 as an important drug in his recipe for success in his athletes back in the early 2000’s. WADA has refused to include thyroid hormones on its 2016 Prohibited Substances List. 
For clean athletes, ethical doctors and real fans who actually care about sports itself; milodium and other Western-EU and North American PED equivalents must be banned, as their misuse crosses too many ethical & safety boundaries. Banning only meldonium is a politically motivated act by the WADA (and the western political interests behind them), meant to discredit Russian athletes, while ignoring widespread doping throughout professional sports. 
In 2015, a whistle-blower leaked International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) blood test records from major competitions. The IAAF is the oldest international sports governing institution, in existence since 1912. Records revealed that between 2001 and 2012, athletes with suspicious drug test results won a third of the medals in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships— a total of 146 medals including 55 golds—but the IAAF caught none of them. Adidas announced in January that it was ending its sponsorship deal with the IAAF four years early, costing them $33 million in revenue. 
The Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) new president is Dmitry Shlyakhtin, as of January 2016. Russia has been banned from international competition by WADA, over a massive doping scandal that goes all the way up to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Butov had been federation general secretary since 2008, occupying a senior post during the time when WADA alleges doping was rife. Butov remains general secretary “temporarily,” while the new management settles in. Butov told Russia’s Tass agency he intended to stay until December.
Shlyakhtin’s ‘anti-crisis’ presidency could last as little as eight months, since new elections are scheduled for September 2016, after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dmitry Shlyakhtin succeeds Valentin Balakhnichev, who was banned for life by the IAAF over the alleged extortion of 450,000 euros from suspended Russian marathon runner, Yulia Stepanov.
Balakhnichev had stepped down from his federation role in February 2015 following a doping scandal. 
These suits mentioned & pictured above are just a few of the people (you’ve likely never heard of), who are mostly responsible for professional sports doping. A problem never gets solved without addressing its root causes.
Maria Sharapova has been witch-hunted, it’s that simple. She has been caught up in a Western political vendetta against Russian athletics, and is being used as a pawn. She maintains certain medical privacy rights, no matter what. Her fans know the truth (as much as they need to hear), and overwhelmingly support her– as her Facebook page speaks for itself.
Sharapova has handled this unfair situation brilliantly, so she will be hated even more by the media establishment & WADA. Meldonium has been used widely in Russian athletics as a stimulant and is relatively safe & non-toxic; as compared to EPO, of which 100+ forms exist, and are untested for. The issue is– was Maria Sharapova fairly informed of the changes in the banned substances list? Athletes under WADA jurisdiction are allowed to use any substances not on that list.
Still no word on when or where the ITF hearing on her case will be held. After two perfect smashes on Facebook, explaining her situation to her fans & the media, there has been no response from the ITF. Here’s Sharapova’s 2nd serve on 3-11-16 on Facebook:
To My Fans:
I want to reach out to you to share some information, discuss the latest news, and let you know that there have been things that have been reported wrong in the media, and I am determined to fight back. You have shown me a tremendous outpouring of support, and I’m so grateful for it. But I have also been aware that some, not all, but some in the media distort, exaggerate and fail to accurately report the facts about what happened.
A report said that I had been warned five times about the upcoming ban on the medicine I was taking. That is not true and it never happened.
That’s a distortion of the actual “communications,” which were provided or simply posted onto a webpage.
I make no excuses for not knowing about the ban. I already told you about the December 22, 2015 email I received. Its subject line was “Main Changes to the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme for 2016.” I should have paid more attention to it.
But the other “communications?” They were buried in newsletters, websites, or handouts.
On December 18, I received an email with the subject line “Player News” on it. It contained a newsletter on a website that contained tons of information about travel, upcoming tournaments, rankings, statistics, bulletin board notices, happy birthday wishes, and yes, anti-doping information. On that email, if a player wanted to find the specific facts about medicine added to the anti-doping list, it was necessary to open the “Player News” email, read through about a dozen unrelated links, find the “Player Zone” link, enter a password, enter a username, read a home screen with more than three dozen different links covering multiple topics, find the “2016 Changes to Tennis Anti-Doping Program and Information” link, click on it and then read a page with approximately three dozen more links covering multiple anti-doping matters. Then you had to click the correct link, open it up, scroll down to page two and that’s where you would find a different name for the medication I was taking.
In other words, in order to be aware of this “warning,” you had to open an email with a subject line having nothing to do with anti-doping, click on a webpage, enter a password, enter a username, hunt, click, hunt, click, hunt, click, scroll and read. I guess some in the media can call that a warning. I think most people would call it too hard to find.
There was also a “wallet card” distributed at various tournaments at the beginning of 2016, after the ban went into effect. This document had thousands of words on it, many of them technical, in small print. Should I have studied it? Yes. But if you saw this document (attached), you would know what I mean. Again, no excuses, but it’s wrong to say I was warned five times.
There was also a headline that said, “4-6 Weeks Normal Treatment for Drug in Maria Sharapova Case.” That headline has been repeated by many reporters who fail to tell their viewers and readers what the rest of the story says. The story quotes the manufacturer of my medicine as saying: “Treatment course can be repeated twice or thrice a year. Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient’s health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time.”
That’s exactly what I did. I didn’t take the medicine every day. I took it the way my doctor recommended I take it and I took it in the low doses recommended.
I’m proud of how I have played the game. I have been honest and upfront. I won’t pretend to be injured so I can hide the truth about my testing.
I look forward to the ITF hearing at which time they will receive my detailed medical records. I hope I will be allowed to play again. But no matter what, I want you, my fans, to know the truth and have the facts.
– Maria 
First set to Miss Sharapova. Speculation has her suspension pegged down from a mandatory maximum of 4 years– to 1 year. This still seems all-too-unfair to too many, who are correct in their feelings, if not their understanding. Her UN ambassadorship has been revoked, once again underscoring the political nature of this sordid affair.
3-24-16 Update: Dated March 7th, 2016 ITF press statement on their site:
Following the statement made by Maria Sharapova in a press conference today, the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) can confirm the following:
– On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova provided an anti-doping sample to the TADP in association with her participation in the 2016 Australian Open.
– That sample was analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory, which returned a positive for meldonium, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Code and, therefore also the TADP.
– In accordance with Article 8.1.1 of the TADP, Ms Sharapova was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
– Ms Sharapova has accepted the finding of meldonium in her sample collected on 26 January.
– As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case. 
As of this update, there is still no update or mention of the upcoming Sharapova hearing on the ITF site or in the press. On 3-12-16, the London Telegraph reported that Maria Sharapova would have an ITF hearing “later this month.” 
Meanwhile, Grindex is the Latvian pharmaceutical company that manufactures meldonium, and they have strongly criticized WADA for adding it to their banned substances list. Grindex representatives claim they gave WADA strong evidence proving meldonium has legitimate therapeutic uses in athletes, and isn’t performance enhancing; but WADA ignored it. 
4-3-16 Update: The Russian Tennis Federation just announced that Sharapova’s hearing won’t be until “mid-June,” meaning she will miss the French Open (her best surface), and possibly Wimbledon– if she isn’t cleared by June 29. Until then she is still “provisionally suspended.” The hearing is expected to only take a few days, which begs the question: why such a long wait for her– when she’s ready now? 
Also now in question is her Summer Olympics eligibility. The 2016 games are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To say all this is political, is a massive over-simplification. This whole case could have been handled in a week or two, but WADA & the ITF won’t allow it. Therefore Maria Sharapova is punished, even if proven innocent.
The players on tour dislike her , and have shown it by not standing with her in her right to a timely hearing as an international workers-rights grievance. This speaks more on their shame, than Sharapova’s; as any professional athlete is deserving of a timely & fair hearing in any PED suspension case.
It is obvious (with the political players involved) that backroom deals are being made left-and-right, and Sharapova’s career is the bargaining tool. It would be helpful to Maria Sharapova’s cause if her fans started speaking up & pointing out all this hypocrisy. She needs it because she is too big of a rock star, and thus has few real friends among her (jealous) peers. She has even less in the (hateful) media.
Does this look like a threat to the American ‘way of life?’