INDIAN WELLS, California (Reuters) - While Maria Sharapova’s fellow players were shocked by the Russian’s announcement that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open, most of them felt the “huge mistake” could have been avoided.
World number three Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland described it as “a very sad day for tennis” but expressed the views of many by saying it was down to every player, via their doctor, to check whether prescribed medications were legal.
Five-times grand slam champion Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, which some researchers have linked to increased athletic performance and endurance, after failing by her own admission to realize that it had been outlawed since Jan. 1.
“I don’t check those emails,” Radwanska told reporters on Wednesday about receiving notification of which substances and medications were on the banned list before the start of every year. “That is what my doctor is doing and my agent.
“I am scared because I know every pill can have something in it so when I am sick I am just taking aspirins 100 percent because I am always afraid that it is going to be something else. (To be safe) I had better play with the flu.”
Men’s world number five Rafa Nadal pointed to Sharapova’s negligence while also hoping that the Russian had made an innocent mistake.
“Everybody can have mistakes,” the Spanish left-hander said at Indian Wells. “I want to believe for sure that it is a mistake for Maria, she didn’t want to do it.
“But it is obvious that it is negligence. The rules are like this. It is fair and now she must pay for it.”
Eighth-ranked Czech Petra Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, expressed sympathy for Sharapova but felt that the doping system was working well.
“Of course it’s not great for her,” the 26-year-old left-hander said. “It’s something which we all should know, what we are taking and what we are putting into the body.
“It’s a huge mistake unfortunately and she has taken responsibility for it. We see that they (doping authorities) are trying to have a clean sport. The system is working, they are doing a good job on that.”
Sharapova, who faces a ban of up to four years pending an investigation by the International Tennis Federation, has got vocal support from fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova but other players have taken a less charitable view.
Three-time grand slam champion Jennifer Capriati tweeted earlier this week: “I’m extremely angry and disappointed. I had to lose my career and never opted to cheat no matter what. I had to throw in the towel and suffer.
“I didn’t have the high priced team of drs that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up.”
In stark contrast, twice grand slam champion Kuznetsova tweeted on Wednesday: “First of all, I want to say that Maria is a great athlete, and even this “strange mistake” will not be able to outshine all of what she has achieved in tennis.
“And most importantly, none of us, especially me, have no rights to comment this story - not to criticize or evaluate Maria. Doping agency has to see this case, not others.”
Sharapova also has been backed by both world number ones, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.
“I obviously wish her all the best,” Djokovic told TMZ Sports. “I’ve known her for a long time and I feel for her for what’s happening. I just hope she gets out of this stronger.”
Williams said: “It’s just taking responsibility, which she admitted that she was willing to do and ready to do. She showed a lot of courage and a lot of heart. She’s always shown courage and heart in everything she’s done, and this is no different.”
Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury