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13 March 2016

The news burst like a bomb. Maria Sharapova was a drugs cheat who was standing there and admitting it…but was she a drugs cheat? In my opinion, no, she wasn’t. What she may have been was a victim – of bureauocracy and an oversight by her own people. What are the facts? Well, first that (possibly unlike) some other athletes taking meldonium, Sharapova really does have several serious medical conditions for which her medication is prescribed and which it is intended to treat. Second, that she had been prescribed her medication for the past ten years. And third that she is not ‘taking meldonium’, she is taking ‘mildronate’ and may not have been aware that this is another name for meldonium. I take several medications myself, nowhere on the pharmacy-provided containers does it mention the alternative names for those I take.
What is more likely that after ten years everyone simply forgot that her medication was also known as meldonium? The question for me is, how much of an effort did the authorities make to reach athletes and make sure they know that meldonium was not only now banned, but that it could be known by another name or names? After ten years taking something it becomes so routine it doesn’t really impinge on you. You get up, at a certain time of day you open the third container to the right, and take a pill from it.
Then too, Maria Sharapova is Russian and the drug is legal there, in fact she’s been taking it quite legally for the past ten years. And speaking as one who’s been taking a particular drug – Neocitamin – for the past 40 years, it’s likely that there has been a considerable build-up of meldonium in Sharapova’s body tissues too. (there has of neocitamin for me.) Have they checked – do they even know – how long that would last? What effort has been made to see if there is any other effective drug she can take or are the authorities merely saying, stop taking an essential drug, we don’t care if that makes you sick or kills you, stop taking it or stop playing tennis professionally. And after ten years, how fair would that be?
And one final thing that disgusts me throughly was the speed with which three sponsors dropped her. Remind me never to buy their products or recommend them. Because I can’t help wondering, if they’re that quick to judge, what other failings do they have!

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