Sharapova denies receiving five drug warnings

INDIAN WELLS • Maria Sharapova hit back on Friday at suggestions that she received five separate warnings about changes to anti-doping rules, which ultimately led to her testing positive for meldonium, a banned drug added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) list on Jan 1.

A defiant Sharapova defended herself in a post on her Facebook page, saying that she received one clear notice in December titled "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," the Russian star said.

"I am determined to fight back," she said. "No excuses, but it's wrong to say I was warned five times."

The Times of London on Wednesday reported that Sharapova had received five separate notifications that meldonium was to be banned.

The newspaper said three pieces of correspondence had been sent by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and two from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

Wada had also issued communications in September that the substance was to be added to the banned list from Jan 1.

The Times said that all the warnings from the ITF and WTA arrived in December, with the final reminder landing on Dec 29.

Sharapova said that on Dec 18 she received an e-mail titled "Player News", and mixed in with the rankings, tournament news, bulletins and birthday wishes was the notification of changes to the anti-doping rules.

She added: "In other words, in order to be aware of this "warning", you had to open an e-mail with a subject line having nothing to do with anti-doping, click on a web page, 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.

"I'm proud of how I have played the game. I have been honest and upfront."

Sharapova also said that she is eager to have her hearing with the ITF officials so she can give her side of the story.

"I look forward to the ITF hearing at which time they will receive my detailed medical records," said the Russian, who had announced earlier that she took the drug for 10 years due to a family history of heart issues and diabetes.

"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."

Meanwhile, Wada said on Friday that it has recorded 99 positive tests for the recently-banned drug at the centre of the Sharapova case.

While it did not name the athletes who tested positive for meldonium, which has been linked to increased athletic performance, it said they came from different sports and were reported by many national anti-doping organisations.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Sharapova denies receiving five drug warnings'. Print Edition | Subscribe