The Telegraph
Friday , May 19 , 2017

Maria's sponsor supports decision


London: Maria Sharapova's racket sponsor backs French Open's decision to deny the former No. 1 a wild card entry and blames the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) for her exclusion.

Sharapova, whose career was rocked by a 15-month doping ban for consuming meldonium in 2015, returned to action last month and was widely expected to be fast-tracked into the year's second Grand Slam tournament.

Johan Eliasch, chief executive of tennis racket firm Head, has previously criticised the inclusion of meldonium as a banned substance and the Swedish billionaire said the French Open snub was a result of Wada's poor decision to ban the substance without any tests.

"I fully support the Grand Slam tournament's decision," Eliasch said.

"I don't think there should be wild cards for doping offenders... What also disappoints me is the fact that Wada has not conducted their business properly.

"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."

Sharapova's exclusion was down to Wada "breaching their own rules", he said.

A Wada spokesman said that the organisation had followed all the required procedures before including meldonium on their list of banned substances.

"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," the spokesman said.

"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... It remains on the prohibited list."

Sharapova 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 adds: Bernard Giudicelli, the president of the FFT, had stated that he was not comfortable with giving a wild card to a player who has only recently returned from a 15-month doping suspension.

Bizarrely, this provoked criticism from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive, Steve Simon. "What I do not agree with is the basis put forward by the FFT for their decision with respect to Maria Sharapova. She has complied with the sanction imposed by CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport)," Simon said.

"The tennis anti-doping programme [TADP] is a uniform effort supported by the grand slams, WTA, ITF, and ATP. There are no grounds for any member of the TADP to penalise any player beyond the sanctions set forth in the final decisions resolving these matters."]

Meanwhile, Sharapova has been handed a wild card to the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Birmingham in June, Britain's Lawn Tennis Association said. The Aegon Classic in Birmingham has now offered Sharapova the chance to fine-tune her grasscourt game after she committed to appear there next year as well.

"We have received a two-year commitment from one of the most famous athletes in the world, Maria Sharapova, to play the Aegon Classic," LTA Chief Executive Michael Downey said.

"In return we are providing Maria with a main draw wild card for this year. This wasn't a decision we took lightly and we recognise not everyone will agree with it. "

Commenting on her Aegon Classic entry, she said: "I am really excited to be coming back to Birmingham ... As part of my build-up to Wimbledon and I thank the LTA for this opportunity." (reuters)

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