(Reuters) - Maria Sharapova’s lawyer has blasted WADA chief Craig Reedie for making remarks about the five-times grand slam champion at a conference in London on Monday and said the Russian tennis player was owed an apology.
The criticism came in a statement by Sharapova’s management company, IMG, after Reedie commented at a World Anti-Doping Agency conference on Sharapova, who is serving a two-year ban after testing positive for the prohibited substance meldonium.
“For me the only satisfactory element in Madame Sharapova’s case was that in one year she can earn more money than the whole of WADA’s budget put together,” Reedie said.
Reedie made his comments relating to Sharapova as he was making a call for more governments and TV broadcasters to pitch in extra money to WADA’s campaign for clean sport.
Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, took exception to Reedie’s comments, which he called unprofessional.
“Justice, whether in the eyes of WADA or a court, must be blind, including being blind to a player’s earnings,” Haggerty said in a statement.
“Mr. Reedie owes an apology to Maria and to all successful tennis players unless he wants fans to think WADA has different standards for players depending on their ranking and earnings.”
WADA told Reuters that Reedie’s comments at WADA’s annual Media Symposium were made in the context of a debate on further funding for clean sport and drew comparisons between WADA’s annual budget and the earning of various sportsmen and women.
“His comments have absolutely no bearing on any particular anti-doping case,” said WADA spokesman Ben Nichols.
WADA said last week it would not file an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after reviewing the ruling on Sharapova’s two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation.
WADA could have petitioned for either a harsher or more lenient punishment.
Sharapova stunned the sporting world in March when she announced she had tested positive for the heart medication meldonium, which was added to WADA’s banned list on Jan. 1.
The Russian had been the highest paid woman in sports for the last 11 years until her reign ended shortly after news of her positive test.
She is now second on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid female athletes, behind fellow tennis player Serena Williams, with combined prize money and off-field earnings of $28.9 million over the last 12 months.
Sharapova, 29, has appealed her two-year ban to CAS.
Reporting by Frank Pingue; editing by Ken Ferris