Serena Williams: Maria Sharapova ‘showed a lot of courage to admit’ to doping


Yesterday, we discussed how Maria Sharapova tested positive for a banned substance. The substance? Meldonium, which Sharapova openly admitted she has been taking for 10 years. Meldonium was just added to the banned-substance list in 2016, a fact which Sharapova claims she was unaware of. The claim that she was unaware has brought mixed reactions, and one of the best pieces I’ve read was this Guardian piece, where they basically say that Sharapova is one of the most heavily managed, structured and well-staffed athletes in the world, so how is it possible that she was unaware of the changes in the banned-substance list? While you ponder that, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki have both chimed in. Just FYI: Caroline and Serena are really close friends and I can totally picture the two of them texting like crazy throughout the Sharapova news conference on Monday.

While a Tuesday press conference was supposed to highlight World Tennis Day, the annual celebration didn’t get much airtime. Instead, most questions focused on Maria Sharapova’s Monday announcement that she failed a drug test at this year’s Australian Open. World No.1 Serena Williams and two-time year-end World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki spoke about the revelation.

“I think like everyone else said most people were surprised and shocked by Maria,” Williams said. “Most people were happy that she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year.”

Wozniacki explained that as a tennis pro, she pays special attention to what she consumes. “Any time we take medication, we double and triple check because sometimes even things like cough drops and nasal sprays can be on the list,” she said. “As athletes, we always make sure to really make sure there’s nothing in it that could put us in a bad situation.”

Williams continued, “It’s just taking the responsibility, which she was willing to do and ready to. I hope for the best for everyone in that situation.”

During the conference, Williams was also asked Nike’s decision to suspend its endorsement deal with Sharapova. Williams, who is poised to become the world’s highest-paid female athlete after the Russian’s announcement, demurred. “I can’t comment on Nike,” said Williams who is endorsed by the company. “I think they’re a successful, huge billion dollar company and make their own decisions and obviously know how to make great decisions.”

[From Fortune]

Wozniacki came in with the pointed comment, not Serena, did you notice that? Like, Caroline was the one with the judgy “well, when you’re a professional athlete, you’re supposed to be pay attention to what you’re taking” comment. While there has historically been no love lost between Sharapova and Serena Williams, I feel like Wozniacki might have a beef with Sharapova too.

As for the Nike thing, it’s true – Sharapova’s lucrative, $70-million Nike contract has been “suspended.” TAG Heuer and Porsche have also suspended their sponsorship deals with Sharapova. The Independent did a fascinating breakdown of how quickly Sharapova has been losing sponsors, compared to male athletes who have tested positive for banned substances. The theory seems to be that there is sexism at play, that Nike in particular has given male athletes more time and consideration before pulling their contracts. While I think there’s definitely a sexist element to how quickly Sharapova is being thrown under the bus, I also think it’s a little late to complain about it, considering Sharapova has made an incredible fortune for herself just by being lithe and blonde and camera-ready.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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46 Responses to “Serena Williams: Maria Sharapova ‘showed a lot of courage to admit’ to doping”

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  1. Dinah says:

    Serena looks very pretty. I like her in the white lace. Very elegant.

    • Fiorella says:

      She looks really good I agree. Nice hair, skin, brows, makeup. But not elegant to me. Looks more like a dress for a Vegas wedding! And is boobs out elegant now? :-/

    • BritAfrica says:

      Dinah, I agree. I don’t see her enough in evening wear. She looks really cool and classy. Methinks melike…!

    • Tiffany says:

      She really does Dinah. But her makeup looks like she is messing with her face. Time to rethink her makeup artist.

  2. Amelia says:

    Classy response from Serena.
    Although, as I heavily ranted about on the last thread, I think there are very few innocent parties within the WTA/ATP when it comes to PEDs.
    I think I’ll try to leave it there before I annoy y’all with too many details!

    • Sixer says:

      Agree classy from Serena. No point in a pile-on and nobody wants the spotlight here, do they?

      Mind you, Wozniacki is right. Their teams double check everything, right down to the electrolyte drinks the players use during matches.

      • Amelia says:

        Yep. Woz is definitely right – there’s no way MA didn’t know what was going in her body.
        And even with the most generous estimate of mildronate’s half life, to test positive on the 26th(?) would mean she ingested it after the ban came into effect on the 1st.

  3. Ana says:

    Well, maybe someday Serena will be as brave as Maria…

    • LadyJane says:

      Uh, since when is it ‘brave’ to admit to something after you were caught?

      • Amelia says:

        There’s something of an omertà within tennis – particularly regarding top tier players – that months and months out for ‘injuries’ or ‘exhaustion’ is really because they’re serving a silent ban.
        Usually speculated that it’s less damaging to the sport as opposed to releasing evidence that scores of world tour players have doped.
        So, this kind of admission is pretty uncommon. Likely someone leaked the details and Sharapova’s camp wanted to get the jump on the press.

        Edit; so much for me shutting up about this 😔

      • Pepper says:

        Most of them try and fight it even if they’re caught red-handed. Sharapova is the only one I can think of in recent history who’s just owned up. If she’d fought it her sponsorships wouldn’t be suspended right now and there’s a good chance it would have been made to go away.

      • JaneS says:

        No, she hasn’t owned up out of the goodness of her heart. She has owned up to protect what is left of the brand and to position herself for the upcoming apology and redemption tour.

        Sharapova is a great tennis player and now a drug cheat. She also is a master in the art of PR. She would NEVER have owned up to it had she not been caught. This is pre-emptive damage control.

      • doofus says:

        agree with Pepper…how often does an athlete admit right away?

        usually, it’s deny/obfuscate until you no longer can. also, it’s not like she had been cheating for decades and trying to hide it (Armstrong)…she used this for years and it was only recently banned. yeah, she should have known but it wasn’t like she was trying to dope and get away with it.

        “The Independent did a fascinating breakdown of how quickly Sharapova has been losing sponsors, compared to male athletes who have tested positive for banned substances.”

        tested positive, beat their wives, were involved in a murder case, etc…

      • abby says:

        I am not going to address Ana’s swipe at Serena but I will acknowledge that Serena knows better than to get pulled into an obvious media trap. She is the #1 Women’s player and she is a member of the Player’s Council. I expected a measured and PC response.

        That said, Sharapova came clean purely to serve her own interests. Her announcement was an act to appeal to the ruling body for a reduction of any future ban the ITF imposes on her. It was purely calculated PR. I am quoting one of the ITF rules below:

        “Article 10.6 of the tennis anti-doping rules also allows for further reductions if a player assists the process, including prompt admission of a doping violation upon notification. Such reductions cannot bring it down to more than a quarter of the original suspension.”

        See link –

        So Maria is just trying to cut down her ban and save her endorsements. This has nothing to do with integrity or courage.

        But the fact is that warnings were sent out from as early as September and according to various reports – WADA, Russian Anti-Doping and various other outlets sent notices of the updated list. No less than 5 updates were sent in December alone –
        So Maria’s excuse is falling apart by the minute. See if she took the drug by mistake, she was facing a 2 year ban that she could haggle down to 1 yr or maybe even a few months. Who knows she could be back for Rio Olympics.

        But now it’s looking more and more like she intentionally took it. That’s a 4 year ban.

        Granted I don’t expect the ITF to throw the book at her but we’ll see how serious tennis is about address doping if they let their media darling get off soft.

    • BritAfrica says:

      Brave in what way exactly? What will Serena be required to be brave for?

      To admit to having cheated AFTER being caught?? Yes, if Serena is EVER caught doping, I too hope she bravely admits it.

    • TessD says:

      Urgh, when it’s her turn she will probably also admit it while wearing some black suit and clutching a handkerchief. They all take one substance or another.

  4. D says:

    I read that the company that manufactures meldonium says the normal course of treatment for the drug is four to six weeks – not 10 years.

    • Sixer says:

      And not for 10 years from the age of 18. That’s a decade of taking a heavy duty heart drug when she hasn’t got a heart problem.

      • BritAfrica says:

        I doubt she would still be alive now if she actually took it for a heart condition for 10 years. She took it during training and prep for a tournament, period.

  5. Michelle says:

    I think the most interesting thing is that she’s claiming to be on the drug for medical reasons, but the drug company came out and said that you shouldn’t be taking a course of the drug for more than 4-6 WEEKS, and she’s been on it 10 YEARS – so obviously it was for performance enhancing purposes, not for an actual condition.

  6. Danielle says:

    I think Serena is a class act. I like how she handled those questions.

    • INeedANap says:

      The best thing is that she could afford to be classy about it because she’s the better player. Like, she can’t be bothered to be damning and pointed in her comments because her legacy speaks for itself. J’adore Serena.

    • BritAfrica says:

      Totally agree with you both. She is the leader of the pack, no point in ‘smirking’ about the exposed failings of anyone. It would be too unbecoming of a leader.

      All she needs to do now is hold her head up high, comment on the ‘bravery’ of others and channel……..’But for the grace of God go all of us’. I can see her carrying that off so well. Her legacy is cemented.

      Sorry! I couldn’t help doing some smirking there myself. Note to self…..’Please stop it’!

  7. Sixer says:

    Current top search on the Global DRO website? Meldonium!

    Also top on the US searches on the site.

    • Amelia says:

      This season of amateur sports should turn out to be an interesting one.
      Brb, drowning my sorrows in tea. Plenty to go around, and shortbread too.

  8. Pepper says:

    No current athlete with half a brain is going to throw her under the bus. Glass houses and all that. They’re all doing things that are banned or will be before they retire.

  9. INeedANap says:

    On the one hand, Serena has been consistently sidelined in the media over Sharapova because of racism and bull$hit standards of beauty, so I am feeling serious schaudenfreude.

    On the other hand, I noticed the endorsement thing too — that male athletes typically take a while to lose deals; even Chris Brown wasn’t dropped with this quickness, because of sexism.

    This is why we need to be intersectional feminists.

  10. Lucy says:

    I think the article you linked is pretty biased and too one sided. It sets Maria Sharapova as the victim from the very beginning. While she might not have done things intentionally, it’s hard to see how she could be seen as a victim.

    Yes, her team let her down, I can’t believe her ship is falling apart because she didn’t click on a link to a list. The truth is that list is available to players three months prior the new year when new regulations apply. There is an application where you can download the list.

    A human resource didn’t check, or triple check the box of the medicine, but she was caught with an enhancing performance drug in her system.

    This case is a lot more complex than just thinking she is losing sponsors because she is a female athlete. This is my opinion and I could be wrong, but Nike has suspended their relationship, the key word here being suspended. Porsche will hold appearances until the case has gone to trial, and we know the consequences. TAG HEUER was in talks to renew contract. As a brand, is not good to be associated with a doper and while Maria was very upfront and brave, she also admitted she had full responsibility, something the other athletes didn’t at the beginning. Also Maria has only played 3 events since Wimbledon, which takes place in July. So.. It’s a hard place where she finds herself in.

  11. hey-ya says:

    …I think MS got kicked so quick cos of the Russian connection…at the moment they’re all untouchable cheaters…I suppose the surprising thing is she took the blame on herself rather than pushing it on her coaches…

    • OrigialTessa says:

      I agree. She’s Russian. She took PED’s. To the American public, that’s an old stereotype and prejudice that’s going to really hurt her in the end.

  12. censored says:

    This was very gracious of Serena, especially as she knows if it had been her things would be MUCH MUCH different . I find the world reaction very interesting that is all.

  13. MV says:

    Appropriate response from Serena.
    Also its interesting that Sharapova was so concerned about Diabetes and yet launched a Candy and chocolate range!

  14. vilebody says:

    I think her dropped endorsements has more to do with her audience than sexism. There was an interesting study a while back (I’m trying to find it now) about what behaviors women vs. men thought was worse. Women tended to be harsher on “solitary” behaviors–i.e. actions done alone–like cheating the rules or substance abuse. Perhaps there is some sexism at play with the more men-focused brands like Porsche (she’s not the pretty ingenue superstar anymore!), but I think the women focused ones like Nike and Tag simply understand their audience base.

    On another note (since I was a bit harsh on Serena yesterday), I wanted to add that for non-tennis watchers out there, that her friendship with Caroline Wozniacki is actually adorable. If there were any smart marketers out there, they should sell their friendship as a #sportssquad goal.

    • abby says:

      Even though the drug was legal prior to Jan 1 2016 many may still see that Maria had an unfair advantage over her opponents. Legal or not, that hurts her reputation.

      Also, imo in the past few years Maria has not been playing all that well, even with the drug – she has missed a number of tournaments due to injury and her game is not all that remarkable.

      Yes, she is a 5-time major winner. She has a career slam and an Olympic silver. Nothing to sneeze at at all.
      It’s just that in the past 5 years or so she really has not been very exciting. I wonder whether the sponsors were getting enough bang for their buck. Facebook likes doesn’t necessarily translate into sales.
      Porche had taken on Kerber from last year or so. Nike has a stable of tennis players and other athletes and TAG uses other celebrities/athletes. They are hardly desperate to hold onto Maria.
      Granted, I do not think these suspended campaigns will be permanent. Likely these deals will be reinstated once her ban is lifted. But I am simply not surprised that they suspended so quickly.
      Personally, in addition to the sexism noted in the article (the sexism which Maria and her team used to her benefit for years btw) I think many of her endorsements were bloated and these companies now are using this opportunity to trim some of the fat off, so to speak.

  15. Veronica says:

    Of course Williams didn’t make the pointed comment – she is PR savvy enough to know how a black woman criticizing a white one might get spun back at her being “petty” or “smug.” That, and it’s wiser on the long run to be gracious about it. (Though, I thought her comment on Nike making “great decisions” was very sly.)

  16. Louise says:

    Is Serena’s face jacked these days?

    I dont get the fuss about Sharapova being good looking. I just dont see what other people see? She is not pretty. Not enough to get ALL of these endorsements. Not being bitchy, but just dont see it.

    • Robin says:

      I don’t either, Louise. Sharapova’s face has always looked pinched to me, her hair dye jobs are badly done, and her unsportsmanlike shrieking has put a lot of people off women’s tennis because it makes matches unwatchable (Azarenka is just as bad). I suspect she got sponsorships more because she is tall and willowy and has nice legs.

      • Louise says:

        I totally agree.

        I never watch her and I really dont know how someone plays her and doesn’t climb over the net and knock her out with the noise! I would snap within two minutes. I suspect a lot of players are not that unhappy this has happened. She is irritating.

      • Fiorella says:

        I have to assume she has the sponsorships because she went after them hard and with a pleasing attitude (whatever that would be to the companies who agreed to hire her.) it’s not a coincidence she has so many and obviously she’s not the most beautiful or best tennis star. Some people are good at business..

  17. Cs says:

    So was it just me or did anyone else realise Serena didn’t actually state any if her opinion about Sharapova at all? ‘Most people are shocked… Most people are happy about her confessing’. Not trying to stir shit here, I just truly admire that there’s probably some beef between the two and Serena is doing a masterclass on not saying shit while looking like she did.

    • abby says:

      IA – she gave a measured, very PC response. It was basically a non-response. We still have no idea what Serena really thinks but what many others may be saying publicly.

      I expected nothing less.

  18. Lillylizard says:

    I recall Serena and Venus being out of the game for almost a year at the same time because of ‘injury’ , co-incidentally it happened just at the exact moment a new drug was added to the list which had the same effect as HGH. Everyone raised eyebrows at that sequence of events.