Maria Sharapova has been provisionally banned from tennis after revealing she had tested positive at the Australian Open for meldonium, also known as mildronate, which the world No7 said she had been taking to combat a magnesium deficiency, heart problems and because of a family history of diabetes.
Sharapova said she was unaware the World Anti-Doping Agency had banned the drug as of 1 January, though it has since emerged the International Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association warned players five times during December about the impending ban. The Latvian company that manufactures meldonium said the normal course of treatment for the drug was four to six weeks, not the 10 years during which Sharapova says she used the substance.
Simon Cambers asked her lawyer, John Haggerty, for an explanation.
Q) There were five emails sent to Maria. How did she not know the drug was on the updated banned list? Do others in her team take a role in knowing this?
A) She takes full responsibility for it. It’s her and her responsibility alone. It’s not the responsibility of any member of her team. At the press conference she took full responsibility for that. We are still looking into and confirming how exactly Maria was notified. But I do not believe the five notifications is correct. But we’re not here to dispute that. We’re here to say that Maria had a responsibility to check the list. She failed to do it and that’s that. She’s not going to make excuses for that. She did receive at least one notification, we’re still working on determining exactly how many more than that she received. But the reality, she was notified the banned list was available and she failed to go and check the banned list and search for the medicines she was on to see if any of them had made their way on to the banned list for 2016.
Q) Maria mentioned diabetes: what evidence is there meldonium helped those conditions she mentioned?
A) There are a number of medical studies that talk about the beneficial impact mildronate has on diabetes symptoms.
Q) How serious were Maria’s heart-related issues when she was a teenager?
A) They were significant enough for her to go to a doctor and undergo a battery of tests that revealed serious medical issues that needed treatment by several medicines. That’s the other thing, in context, that she wasn’t prescribed meldonium, she was prescribed mildronate and several other medications, to address the various medical conditions her doctor diagnosed her with.
Q) Did she take it on its own or together with other things?
A) It would have been taken together with other things, pursuant to her doctor’s recommendations.
Q) So was it a capsule on its own, or something with others in it?
A) We’re sort of getting into the details of her medical records that we’re not able to discuss but that’s what I think is the clarification. It wasn’t that she was taking mildronate to address every single issue she had. Her doctor recommended it for a number of her conditions, he recommended some additional medications, and she followed her doctor’s orders in taking all those medications.
Q) Maria said she has been taking it for 10 years. Manufacturers said the normal dosage is four to six weeks, every now and again. Was Maria closer to the latter?
A) That’s exactly right, she did not take it every day. The manufacturer said four to six weeks, two to three times a year, or as recommended by her doctor. Her course of treatment was certainly more along those lines than taking it every day for 10 years.
Q) Is mildronate performance-enhancing? Wada has banned it altogether, rather than setting a dosage limit.
A) That’s something I think Wada would have to answer but I would say, given the daily dosage they were saying, some athletes were using it to gain some potential performance-enhancing benefits. Those dosages I’ve seen in the literature are substantially higher than the dosage Maria’s doctor recommended for Maria’s medical condition. So while I’m not a physician my belief is the level Maria was taking it at, there would not be any performance-enhancing effect whatsoever.
Q) Did she put meldonium on those forms?
A) Maria never took meldonium, she took mildronate. I’m in the process … I’ve yet to review those forms so I can’t answer that question. I simply do not know.
Q) There has been talk that Maria could ask for a retrospective TUE (therapeutic use exemption). Has Maria asked for one, can she ask for one?
A) We’re evaluating all of Maria’s options and since the TUE process is confidential I’m not in a position to be able to comment either way in what she has or has not done in that regard.
Q) Is there a time limit on doing this?
A) I’m not aware of any timeframe with regard to submission of such a thing.
Q) Meldonium is not licensed in the US so there are questions about where Maria got it from, as individuals are banned from importing it into the US. Has the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) been in touch with you?
A) The FDA has not been in touch with me. It is an over-the-counter medicine that is readily available in a number of countries. Maria legally purchased it and obtained it and has been taking it per her doctor’s recommendations.
Q) So would she have been buying it outside of the US?
A) Given that goes into the medical records and out of respect for the ITF (International Tennis Federation) process, I’m not going to be able to respond to that. theguardian.com
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