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Cycling star reacts to news of Russian tennis ace's admission she failed an anti-doping control...

Sir Bradley Wiggins says there is “no excuse” for Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova testing positive for a banned substance at January’s Australian Open, and says the situation would not arise for riders supported by British Cycling due to the support they get from the governing body’s medical staff.

Sharapova, who in 2012 won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam having previously triumphed at Wimbledon and the US and Australian Opens, revealed at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday that she had tested positive for meldonium.

The 28-year-old insisted that she had been unaware that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had added the drug, which she admits she has been using since 2006 to treat a medical condition, to its Prohibited List from 1 January this year.

The drug – not approved in the UK or US, and which WADA says can enhance sporting performance – is the same one that Sharapova’s compatriot, Katusha rider Edvard Vorganov, tested positive for in January.

Wiggins underlined however that it is the athlete’s responsibility to check that any substance they are taking does not contravene the rules, although he did say he was sympathetic to the position Sharapova – who has been swiftly dropped by sponsors including Nike – found herself in.

“I do have sympathy for her situation,” he told Sky News. “I feel sorry for her.

“But at the same time, there is no excuse for it because at the end of the day you’re responsible for everything you put in your body.

“You’re also responsible for checking there may be changes [to the Prohibited List] on the first of January.

“British Cycling are really on the ball – Richard Freeman, the doctor – in terms of things that have been changed, saying ‘please don’t use this anymore’.

“There’s no excuse for it in this day and age with the things that have gone on before,” continued Wiggins, who on Sunday won the Madison at the Track World Championships in London with Mark Cavendish.

“It isn’t an excuse anymore to say ‘I didn’t realise they’d changed the rules’,” he added.

Writing in the Guardian today on what he termed a “carefully crafted admission,” journalist Owen Gibson was rather more scathing in his opinion of the excuse given by someone who for more than a decade has been the highest paid woman in sport.

“As many have pointed out,” he commented, “it beggars belief that Sharapova and her huge entourage – all the machinery and accoutrements of modern sport from IMG to Nike, and her own medical and support staff – could have missed the fact that a drug she had been taking for a decade had been made illegal.”

Former WADA president Dick Pond told the BBC that Sharapova had been “reckless beyond belief” and that “she should have known” that meldonium is now banned.

While the drug is, or has been, widely used by athletes in Russia, a country whose track and field athletes are at the centre of a separate doping scandal, Pound noted: “She is taking something that is not generally permitted in her country of residence [the US] for medical purposes, so she says, so there must be a doctor following this.

“Anytime there is a change to the list notice is given on 30 September prior to the change,” he went on. “You have October, November, December to get off what you are doing.

 “All the tennis players were given notification of it and she has a medical team somewhere. That is reckless beyond description.”

The Latvia-based pharmaceutical firm Grindeks, which developed the drug, said: "Depending on the patient's health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks.

"Treatment 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."

The International Tennis Federation’s Tennis Anti-Doping Programme said in a statement on Monday that Sharapova “will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case.”

As a first-time offender, Sharapova could face a ban of up to four years in what is the highest profile doping case since Lance Armstrong was banned from sport for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and one that could have greater repercussions.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

27 comments

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HarrogateSpa [499 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

I suppose this is just about a cycling story - more than 'Victoria Pendleton rode a horse today', at least.

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bikeandy61 [538 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I think it is a cycling story considering the crap that is thrown, justifiably or not, at cycling while other sports, many of which have rewards MUCH greater* than cycling look the other way and sweep any problems under the carpet.

* I'm stating that if the rewards are greater the temptation/pressure to "cheat" is surely far greater.

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Gus T [319 posts] 1 year ago
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Maybe other sports will stop all the finger pointing at cycling and admit that drug abuse is endemic throughout all professional sport. There are so called sports people a lot higher profile than Sharapova who are obviously doping but the relevant authorities choose to look away rather than deal with the problem, professional football and rugby to name but 2 in the UK.  Meanwhile PMSL angel

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grasen [14 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

For me the big difference is that when she tested positive she said hey I'm caught.

In cycling everybody says there must be a mistake because I would never do that (landis, rassmussen, armstrong, pantani and so on)

I respect people who stand up and say I did it (alex zulle)

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jova54 [676 posts] 1 year ago
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I wonder if the drugs were the cause of her shrieking every time she hit the ball.

Unfortunately, like Armstrong, her fall from grace has become the story rather than the fact that she doped and got caught.

I'm sure she'll survive on her estimated $120 Million net worth.

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Disfunctional_T... [240 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

At least the Williams sisters are clean! lol

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Colin Peyresourde [1820 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
grasen wrote:

For me the big difference is that when she tested positive she said hey I'm caught.

In cycling everybody says there must be a mistake because I would never do that (landis, rassmussen, armstrong, pantani and so on)

I respect people who stand up and say I did it (alex zulle)

Very big of her. What a model athlete.

There are two things about this story of note:

1. She took an 'unapproved' drug for ten years and thought that was OK - given that she's a US resident she must have known that it was performance enhancing and took it anyway. Which reinforces the notion that athletes will do anything to get that edge - let's face it, the rewards are great.

2. She has an army of people that look after her. It would've made news that this drug was banned. It was either brazen to continue using, or she was hoping to get caught. Perhaps she thought she was untouchable.

Glad the chickens are coming home to roost. Just need something to happen in football now.

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ooldbaker [125 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Colin Peyresourde wrote:
grasen wrote:

For me the big difference is that when she tested positive she said hey I'm caught.

In cycling everybody says there must be a mistake because I would never do that (landis, rassmussen, armstrong, pantani and so on)

I respect people who stand up and say I did it (alex zulle)

Very big of her. What a model athlete.

There are two things about this story of note:

1. She took an 'unapproved' drug for ten years and thought that was OK - given that she's a US resident she must have known that it was performance enhancing and took it anyway. Which reinforces the notion that athletes will do anything to get that edge - let's face it, the rewards are great.

2. She has an army of people that look after her. It would've made news that this drug was banned. It was either brazen to continue using, or she was hoping to get caught. Perhaps she thought she was untouchable.

Glad the chickens are coming home to roost. Just need something to happen in football now.

This is not the picture of a habitual cheat. If this is the only substance she has taken then she was playing clean for 10 years. The drug was 'unnapproved' but not hidden from anyone. She would have declared it's use whenever she gave a sample under routine drug testing. You can hardly be called a cheat for something you were quite open about and was not on any banned list  then.

It seems to me that all athletes try to find an edge, how else can they win. Athletes frequently take suplements and that and their training regime is designed to be 'performance enhancing' you cannot use that phrase against anyone.

Another difference between this case and the many cycling ones and a very telling one to me is that when a cyclist is found they certainly get no sympathy from their peers. I saw a panel of top players rallying (no pun intended) behind her yesterday including Serena Williams who is no great friend of hers. No-one was saying she was innocent or that it was a mistake but there was no animosity whatever.

Personally I think she deserves a ban as the greater picture demands that cheats (even accidental ones) must be dealt with consistently, but I can only conclude that it must have been an accident.

 

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imaca [82 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Yeah, I hope her heart disease clears up soon,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meldonium

along with the other 724 of 4,316  russian athletes who tested positive for it in 2015.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/35754677

Heart disease is clearly a major problem for russian athletes, some of them will apparently die as a result of this ban

http://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/35768294

Still, hopefully there will be plenty of other performance enhancing heart disease treatments WADA hasn't managed to ban yet to keep these poor victims alive.

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Artem [31 posts] 1 year ago
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The drug is Latvian version of l-carnitine... see wikiprdia for example. this whole story is ridiculous

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frogg [105 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Disfunctional_Threshold wrote:

At least the Williams sisters are clean! lol

You're talking about the Williams brothers i suppose ...

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STiG911 [279 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Got to love all these comments from those claiming that 'she's cheating', 'she's doping' or 'playing the family Doctor card'.

She's  not Lance Armstrong. She's not been 'doping' for ten years to gain an edge, she's been taking specifically prescribed medication and that's the difference that just about everyone with a negative comment to say needs to get through their heads.

There's no way someone of her profile is going to present that much medical background on her use of the drug, only for it to all fall down under scrutiny. Yes, either her or her team need a massive slap round the face for not picking up on the revised banned drugs list, but to suggest that she's been cheating off the back of this is beyond arrogant given the facts we've yet to see.

The main reason the drug was banned is because so many atheletes have been found to be taking it to actually get a boost, whereas Sharapova's been taking it to combat a specific medical condition. There's a lot of people taking meds over a long period of time or even for life due to conditions they have, so don't hear the words 'banned substance' and instantly think 'cheat'; get over yourselves and find out more before throwing stones. Just because it's not ratified for sale in the US or UK doesn't mean it's a bad thing - There's plenty of US and UK sourced goods which are illegal outside their own countries for example, there's a US drug used to treat Diabetes which is illegal in the UK because it causes Heart problems!

And just so we're clear I'm not in any way a tennis fan, I just prefer to find out as much as I can rather than believing everything i read in the press.

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ooldbaker [125 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
imaca wrote:

Yeah, I hope her heart disease clears up soon,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meldonium

along with the other 724 of 4,316  russian athletes who tested positive for it in 2015.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/35754677

Heart disease is clearly a major problem for russian athletes, some of them will apparently die as a result of this ban

http://www.bbc.com/sport/tennis/35768294

Still, hopefully there will be plenty of other performance enhancing heart disease treatments WADA hasn't managed to ban yet to keep these poor victims alive.

 

I think it is worth pointing out that WADA don't ban drugs. They ban athletes who want to compete from taking those drugs. A bit of an important difference. No-one need drop dead if they actually need saving.

It will be interesting to follow the replacements (if any) that the thousands of athletes who were taking this drug (WADA know who they are as there was no secrecy).

I don't think someone taking a legal drug can be called cheating but I don't buy Sharapova's story of taking this drug for low magnesium, sickness, flu, heart problems, diabetes. If it really cured all of these it would certainly save the NHS finances on it's own.

From the comments made by the manufacturer it would appear that losing the chronically sick athletes market is going to be fatal to their profits.

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davel [1862 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
STiG911 wrote:

Got to love all these comments from those claiming that 'she's cheating', 'she's doping' or 'playing the family Doctor card'.

She's  not Lance Armstrong. She's not been 'doping' for ten years to gain an edge, she's been taking specifically prescribed medication and that's the difference that just about everyone with a negative comment to say needs to get through their heads.

There's no way someone of her profile is going to present that much medical background on her use of the drug, only for it to all fall down under scrutiny. Yes, either her or her team need a massive slap round the face for not picking up on the revised banned drugs list, but to suggest that she's been cheating off the back of this is beyond arrogant given the facts we've yet to see.

The main reason the drug was banned is because so many atheletes have been found to be taking it to actually get a boost, whereas Sharapova's been taking it to combat a specific medical condition. There's a lot of people taking meds over a long period of time or even for life due to conditions they have, so don't hear the words 'banned substance' and instantly think 'cheat'; get over yourselves and find out more before throwing stones. Just because it's not ratified for sale in the US or UK doesn't mean it's a bad thing - There's plenty of US and UK sourced goods which are illegal outside their own countries for example, there's a US drug used to treat Diabetes which is illegal in the UK because it causes Heart problems!

And just so we're clear I'm not in any way a tennis fan, I just prefer to find out as much as I can rather than believing everything i read in the press.

Well, you really need to look harder. It doesn't take an expert googler to find out that the product's manufacturers themselves only expect treatment to run to a few weeks:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/35757814

Poor Maria. Must've been quite an effort keeping up a career as a top athlete while battling heart failure for 10 years.

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Sniffer [440 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
STiG911 wrote:

She's  not Lance Armstrong. She's not been 'doping' for ten years to gain an edge, she's been taking specifically prescribed medication and that's the difference that just about everyone with a negative comment to say needs to get through their heads.

I agree she is not Lance.  I just don't swallow the 'specifically prescribed medication line'.  The hearing will have to convince that this is a genuine medical need and while none of us has the facts at this stage it is hard to guess what this might be.

If she does - she is guilty of not having a TUE and will have to face the consequences of that failure.

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STiG911 [279 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
davel wrote:
STiG911 wrote:

Well, you really need to look harder. It doesn't take an expert googler to find out that the product's manufacturers themselves only expect treatment to run to a few weeks:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/35757814

Poor Maria. Must've been quite an effort keeping up a career as a top athlete while battling heart failure for 10 years.

I did look harder - in the main article in fact:

"Treatment 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."

And from the BBC article:

"She had "abnormal electrocardiogram readings" and "some diabetes indicators", which prompted the doctor to recommend medication, including meldonium." - So that's a Heart issue, not heart failure; Big difference.

I think people are under the misconception that it's a pill that's getting popped daily, which is also wrong.

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davel [1862 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
STiG911 wrote:
davel wrote:
STiG911 wrote:

Well, you really need to look harder. It doesn't take an expert googler to find out that the product's manufacturers themselves only expect treatment to run to a few weeks:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/35757814

Poor Maria. Must've been quite an effort keeping up a career as a top athlete while battling heart failure for 10 years.

I did look harder - in the main article in fact:

"Treatment 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."

And from the BBC article:

"She had "abnormal electrocardiogram readings" and "some diabetes indicators", which prompted the doctor to recommend medication, including meldonium." - So that's a Heart issue, not heart failure; Big difference.

I think people are under the misconception that it's a pill that's getting popped daily, which is also wrong.

No misconception necessary: it's a treatment generally for a chronic heart condition, with treatments expected to last a few weeks and maybe run a few times in a year. A top athlete took it for 10 years - by her own admission. During that period, she was at the top of her game, participating in matches that lasted a couple of hours.

I've got a bridge to sell you, stiggy. If it helps, I can arrange the sale via an attractive, leggy blonde during a sombre press conference where she comes over all apologetic-like.

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Pub bike [244 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

In her case, if she does have a heart condition, it would have been wise to find a treatment that did not also have performance enhancing properties or else she risk invalidating every sports performance since taking the drug.  If I'd been one of those who has lost to Sharapova in the last ten years then I would expect an explanation.

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Sniffer [440 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Sharapova hasn't claimed to have a heart condition.  I suspect if she did she would have shared that early.  She was pretty impressive at taking control of the media.  Imagine the sympathy if she had shared that.

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ooldbaker [125 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes
Sniffer wrote:

Sharapova hasn't claimed to have a heart condition.  I suspect if she did she would have shared that early.  She was pretty impressive at taking control of the media.  Imagine the sympathy if she had shared that.

 

She did, she said she had irregular "ekg" results.

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wilkij1975 [29 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

To be fair to her, when women tennis players have the Williams brothers to contend with, you can see why they'd try and cheat.

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mike the bike [968 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

 

After careful study of her photo' and rigorous application of all my medical knowledge I have come to the conclusion she can do anything she damn well likes.

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kwi [293 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
mike the bike wrote:

 

After careful study of her photo' and rigorous application of all my medical knowledge I have come to the conclusion she can do anything she damn well likes.

That's why I'm not judging, just incase she needs a shoulder to cry on.........

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Disfunctional_T... [240 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
ooldbaker wrote:

She did, she said she had irregular "ekg" results.

You put the quotes in the wrong place mate. Should be
she had "irregular" ekg results.

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Bob Wheeler CX [104 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

still doesn't erase the stain of a generation of roadie blood dopers, and now the terrifying new spectre of covert motor frauds

if governing bodies are serious about unmasking cheats, in all sports, they can do it

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surly_by_name [548 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Pub bike wrote:

In her case, if she does have a heart condition, it would have been wise to find a treatment that did not also have performance enhancing properties or else she risk invalidating every sports performance since taking the drug.  If I'd been one of those who has lost to Sharapova in the last ten years then I would expect an explanation.

From whom? Certainly not from Sharapova, who did nothing beyond the scope of the rules in taking this substance before 1 Jan this year. Maybe from WADA though, who appear to have not really been paying attention.

I wonder how many cyclists were doing this one?

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oldstrath [894 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Pub bike wrote:

In her case, if she does have a heart condition, it would have been wise to find a treatment that did not also have performance enhancing properties or else she risk invalidating every sports performance since taking the drug.  If I'd been one of those who has lost to Sharapova in the last ten years then I would expect an explanation.

Do you also want an explanation from all the high-performing asthmatics in distance events, including cycling?