NO ROOM FOR MARIA
Russian denied wildcard for Roland Garros as FFT take moral stand after doping ban
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.