Poor (poor?) Maria Sharapova. A figure to make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window, legs that reach from Wimbledon to Tim Peake and a face that launched a thousand brands; brought down by one (one?) too many doses of hubris and a sea of advisers too frightened or too stupid to read their emails. Never mind darling, we’ve all done it.

Will she now have to cut her coat to suit her cloth? Drive a Dacia instead of a Porsche (you do the math), wear a Sekonda instead of a Tag Heuer, drink Tesco basics instead of Evian, wear George at Asda instead of Nike?

I never much cared for Sharapova if I’m honest – too cold, too noisy (that irritating, tiresome, unnecessary and ostentatious grunt), too arrogant, too average as a player (despite winning Wimbledon at 17 and 4 other slams she never quite fulfilled her promise), too calculating (the Katie Price or Victoria Beckham of sport – the brand is everything), too (dammit) Russian/American.

Every sport now seems to be riven with doping scandals and maybe it is time to think the unthinkable and review our whole attitude to drugs in sport. Matthew Syed wrote a very interesting piece in The Times asking whether it is now time to have this debate. He asks whether Chris Froome sleeping in an oxygen tent in his flat in Monaco (while Michelle and the baby are gasping on the sofa) is qualitatively different from someone else taking EPO from a tablet. The result (coping better at altitude) is the same even if the means of delivery are different. I think he’s got a point.

I find it hard to believe that Sharapova, shielded by her army of hangers-on, flunkeys, assistants, managers, lawyers, advisers and long lost family members would risk losing everything by taking a banned substance, which leaves 3 possibilities:

  1. She and her team really are that dumb
  2. The risks of getting caught are so low that a lot of people are at it – we just see the tip of the iceberg.
  3. Both of the above.

As Sherlock Holmes (himself a keen cyclist and tennis player) observed; when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.

Sharapova’s career was effectively over anyway – losing 19 times in a row to Serena Williams would sap anyone’s motivation (even artificially boosted) and she’s always seemed injury-prone – the Jonathan Woodgate of women’s tennis, but a 1, 2 or 4 year ban hardly seems a way to be remembered.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining. I see an autobiography, I see films, I see a singing career, I see a You Tube channel, I see 5 grams of Sharadopa in a Hermes pouch, I see…

Whatever happened to Gabriela Sabatini?

I suppose she could always move to Meldonium –  a country within the Russian federation where drug taking in sport is legal and the doctors are for sale. Not as sunny as Los Angeles but the houses are a lot cheaper.


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