Head chief blames Wada but backs move

LONDON • The decision by the French Open authorities to refuse Maria Sharapova a wild card has surprisingly received the full support of the Russian's racket sponsor.

Johan Eliasch, the chairman and chief executive of Head, believes that the French Tennis Federation (FFT) made the right call not to hand her a spot in the draw.

However, he has laid the blame for one of his most prominent clients missing the second Grand Slam event of the year at the door of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Since Sharapova announced her failed doping test last year, Eliasch has repeatedly made the case that meldonium, the drug that the 30-year-old claimed she had taken for 10 years because of a family history of heart issues and diabetes, should not have been made a prohibited substance.

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"I fully support the Grand Slam tournament's decision," he said on Wednesday. "I don't think there should be wild cards for doping offenders. Yes, I am disappointed, but rules are rules.

"What also disappoints me is the fact that Wada has not conducted their business properly, that disappoints me more than the fact that Maria is not playing.

"What I think is still very wrong is the fact that Wada has been allowed to enforce the rule without any form of evidence or clinical testing. If Wada is to have any credibility, they have to stick to their own rules.

"This issue with Maria and the French Open, that is a consequence of Wada breaching their own rules for a delinquent way of operating."

Wada has always insisted, however, that the proper procedures were followed, and a spokesman said: "The Wada List Expert Group undertook a very thorough consultation process in 2015. Following this process, it was determined that meldonium was being used by athletes with the intent of enhancing performance.

"Meldonium met the required criteria to be added to the list - this included evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance. There is no question whatsoever as to the status of meldonium as a prohibited substance. It remains on the prohibited list."

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, secured a spot in the qualifying draw for Wimbledon by meeting ranking criteria but will find out if she receives a wild card for the main draw on June 20.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2017, with the headline 'Head chief blames Wada but backs move'. Print Edition | Subscribe