Maria Sharapova shocked the sports world, by announcing that, she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
International Tennis Federation (ITF) provisionally suspended Sharapova, who even suffers 4 year ban, after she tested positive for Meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances this year.
Unwilling to give chance to any other media, she herself leaked the scandal, further saying that she wanted to be in control of this story, and not the other way around.
Speaking on the issue, Sharapova's attorney John Haggerty said, “We are attempting to have a conversation with ITF up front, because we think there are laundry list of extremely mitigating circumstances that once taken into consideration would result in a dramatically reducing any sanction that they might want to impose on Maria.”
The reaction was swift, with several professional players coming to her defense on social media (former world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati was a notable dissenter, while three sponsors, including Nike, announced they were cutting ties, at least temporarily, with the No. 7-ranked player in world.
Sharapova's brand image helped in selling luxury watches, card and also a gourmet candy line.
“I think it says a lot about her when you're able to have such a long relationship with a brand. There are very few people in the sports world who have these types of long relationships. She understands return on investment and looks as these relationships as partnerships, she's just a really good businesswoman. When her career is over, and she has 365 days a year to dedicate to business, it's going to be pretty scary”.
“There are very few people in the sports world who have these types of long relationships. She understands return on investment and looks as these relationships as partnerships. She's just a really good businesswoman. When her career is over, and she has 365 days a year to dedicate to business, it's going to be pretty scary,” Sharapova's agent Max Eisenbud earlier said.
Sharapova joined the list of rare professional atheletes, who breaked the news of their own scandals, rather than trying to defend her self or admit to transgressions once the story is beyond their control.
Due to this open mentality, even the news conference was not nearly as filled, as it would have been, if the news had leaked (though it was rumored that Sharapova was announcing her retirement). Even Sharapova did not express too much of emotion, like Marion Jones when she tearfully admitted to steroid use with many microphones and reporters inches from her face. At one point, Sharapova even made a joke about the "ugly carpet" at the Los Angeles hotel.
Haggerty said, “We've been involved in these types of matters before. Not one where a person like Maria has said, I took it and let's get right to it like this. But I think that goes to show how strong of integrity she has as a human being.”
Martina Hingis in 2007, was in a similar situation, when she announced her retirement for the second time, after testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon. She got suspended for two years.
“I am frustrated and angry. I believe that I am absolutely, 100 percent innocent," Hingis said at that time.
In 2013, Hingis was back to Tennis and has since won six Grand Slam doubles titles. She along with Sania Mirza are currently the top ranked doubles team.
Sharapova says she started taking the substance - known to her as mildronate - since 2006 for magnesium deficiency and irregular EKG results, while also citing a family history of diabetes.
On January 26th, Sharapova provided the positive sample to the ITF and was charged on March 2nd with the violation. She further added that she was unaware that the drug had been put on the ban list, earlier this year.
“I know I face consequences and I didn't want to end my career this way. I hope I will be given the chance to play this game again,” she said.
Meanwhile, it is to be seen, what punishment Sharapova will receive, but by leaking the scandal on her own, she tried to keep her brand as untarnished as possible, while avoiding the ignominy of publicly defending herself once a story of a high-profile athlete caught in a doping incident has spiraled out of control. For an athlete and popular brand like Sharapova, every bit of control matters.
By Phani Ch