NO ROOM FOR MARIA

Rus­sian de­nied wild­card for Roland Gar­ros as FFT take moral stand af­ter dop­ing ban

New Straits Times - - Sport -

PARIS qual­i­fy­ing event held the week be­fore.

It meant she needed a favour from the French Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion (FFT) but in an un­ex­pected de­vel­op­ment, espe­cially as the French Open is al­ready with­out preg­nant Ser­ena Wil­liams and rest­ing Roger Fed­erer, it took a moral stand that will please some of her ri­vals but could hit the tour­na­ment’s rat­ings.

“You can get a wild­card when you re­turn from in­jury but you can­not get a wild­card when re­turn­ing from a dop­ing sus­pen­sion,” FFT pres­i­dent Bernard Gi­u­di­celli said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence broad­cast live on Face­book.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate the media im­pact of Maria, I ap­pre­ci­ate the broad­cast­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions but in con­science, it was not pos­si­ble to go beyond the anti-dop­ing code and beyond the ap­pli­ca­tion of the rules...

“I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans,” added Gi­u­di­celli. “They might be dis­ap­pointed, she might be very dis­ap­pointed, but it’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity, my mis­sion, to pro­tect the high stan­dards of the game.”

WTA chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Si­mon later re­leased a state­ment con­ced­ing that while wild­cards were is­sued at the “sole dis­cre­tion” of tour­na­ments he dis­agreed with “the ba­sis put for­ward by the FFT for their de­ci­sion.”

“She has com­plied with the sanc­tion im­posed by CAS,” he 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.”

Gi­u­di­celli dropped the bomb­shell shortly be­fore Maria, who tested pos­i­tive for heart dis­ease drug mel­do­nium at last year’s Aus­tralian Open, was due to face Croa­t­ian vet­eran Mir­jana Lu­ci­cBa­roni at the Ital­ian Open in Rome.

The bold de­ci­sion of the French fed­er­a­tion now throws the ball in the court of Wim­ble­don, who will face a sim­i­larly dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion when they an­nounce their wild­cards on June 20.

Maria, who won Wim­ble­don in 2004, will need a wild­card to get straight into the main draw at the All Eng­land Club.

She could have saved them that dilemma by reach­ing the semi­fi­nals in Rome to boost her rank­ing but with­drew in­jured from her match with Mir­jana to com­plete a bad night.

At least Maria is guar­an­teed a place in the Wim­ble­don qual­i­fy­ing event thanks to her firstround win on Mon­day.

Maria stunned the sport­ing world last year when she stood up in a Los Angeles ho­tel to say that she had failed a dop­ing test for mel­do­nium — a drug that she said she had ‘legally’ taken through­out her ca­reer to treat med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Her ex­pla­na­tion was that she had not re­alised it had been added to WADA’s banned list a few weeks ear­lier.

The five-time grand slam cham­pion, one of the sport’s big­gest names and whose US$36 mil­lion (RM162 mil­lion) in prize money is dwarfed by her of­f­court earn­ings, was ini­tially banned for two years.

How­ever, af­ter an ap­peal, the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) found she was not an “in­ten­tional doper” and re­duced the sus­pen­sion to 15 months.

“While it’s true that the CAS has re­duced her sanc­tion, it is still a vi­o­la­tion of the ten­nis an­tidop­ing pro­gramme,” Gi­u­di­celli said.

“It is not for me to ques­tion that (CAS) de­ci­sion.”

Maria’s re­turn has been rocky and sev­eral lead­ing play­ers have crit­i­cised tour­na­ment di­rec­tors at WTA events in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome for of­fer­ing her a wild­card, ar­gu­ing that she should be awarded no spe­cial treat­ment. Reuters

Maria Shara­pova won the French Open in 2012 and 2014.

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