Saturday, May 7, 2016

This Blog is Closed

by Savannah

For technical reasons I've closed this blog.

I will still be blogging, just on a different site.

I've enjoyed the Blogspot experience but I have to move the blog.

Older posts will be archived.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ray Moore Steps Down

by Savannah

The BNPParibas Open (Indian Wells) released the following statement tonight:

MAR 21, 2016

"Earlier today I had the opportunity to speak with Raymond Moore," said BNP Paribas Open Owner, Larry Ellison. "Ray let me know that he has decided to step down from his roles as CEO and Tournament Director effective immediately. I fully understand his decision."

"Nearly half a century ago, Billie Jean King began her historic campaign for the equal treatment of women in tennis. What followed is an ongoing, multi-generational, progressive movement to treat women and men in sports equally. Thanks to the leadership of Billie Jean, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and so many other great women athletes, an important measure of success has already been achieved. I'm proud to say that it is now a decade long tradition at our tournament at Indian Wells, and all the major tennis tournaments, to pay equal prize money to both the women and the men."

"I would like to personally thank all the great women athletes who fought so hard for so many years in the pursuit of equal prize money in professional tennis. And I'd like to congratulate them on their success. All of us here at the BNP Paribas Open promise to continue working with everyone to make tennis a better sport for everybody," concluded Ellison.

Larry Ellison had no choice but to accept Ray Moore's resignation. If this goes the way things usually go in tennis things will now calm down, tennis reporters will go back to their collective stupor, a new Tournament Director will be named, and life in the world of tennis, will go back to normal.

Let's be clear. Ray Moore, from South Africa, has done a lot of good. He fought apartheid, and stood on what for many was the right side of many causes. He rightly got in trouble for going beyond a statement of fact - the WTA as an organization is poorly run and that it's high level personnel do nothing to promote the game of women's tennis. If he had stopped there I don't think he would've had to step down today. The TD for Dubai is still in place and he said pretty much the same thing a few weeks ago.

What got him in trouble was being a 69 year old man who said things in a way that made him appear to imply WTA players should be performing a sex act on two top ATP players in gratitude for what those two men have done. He compounded his problems by talking about "lady players", an anachronistic and pejorative term for the women athletes who play professional tennis. He then went on to comment on the physical attractiveness of said athletes, something he would never say about the top ATP players when discussing them.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that misogyny runs deep in the top levels of tennis. All you have to do is listen to the male commentators when they're forced to work WTA matches. John McEnroe had no idea that Venus Williams, a fairly well known woman tennis player, had been diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome and that she'd been suffering from it's effects for over seven years. This was after it had been all over the web and in print media. His response when told about it and what it does was pretty much a shrug. When former male players are forced to work WTA matches they spend the entire time talking about men's tennis. This attitude extends to the cameramen who spend a lot of time giving us crotch shots or aiming their camera's down the front of a woman player's kit.

The WTA doesn't get off scot free either. The organization has aided and abetted this misogyny by promoting athletes who they feel men want to see. The criteria for being a WTA superstar is not what you do on court but how you look. Of European descent? Check. Tall? Check. Blonde? Check. It doesn't matter if you are flat as a board you will be presented as the sexiest woman on the planet and the way paved for you to make millions in endorsements. There are exceptions to this rule: Maria Kirilenko and Anna Chakvetadze comes to mind. So does Victoria Azarenka.

And, some will say, what about the hype around players like Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys? The desperation of the USTA shouldn't be confused with what passes for PR from the WTA. The situation with the WTA is different. It is supposed to promote women's tennis, not a particular player. This means making sure the world at large knows about it's players, is aware of their talent, and their athletic ability. It means making sure that your product is viewed by as many people as possible. Instead the WTA hired an outside firm to make deals with TennisTV, Eurosport and other major carriers of tennis content instead of controlling the marketing and image of women's tennis.

I've been writing about the failings of the WTA for years and I've sworn I'd stop writing about their nonsense several times but it seems I'm not able to do that. Every season there is some new incident that shows that the people running the WTA don't give a damn about women's tennis. And if they don't give a damn why should anyone else?

That is why the comments made by Novak Djokovic are right in line with the anti female attitude in tennis. Jo Wilfried Tsonga brought up women's hormones (menstrual cycles) as an issue affecting their play two or three years ago. Gilles Simon also spoke about women not deserving equal pay. They are only saying publicly what is said privately. If the WTA were a competent organization and didn't buy into the attitude by promoting "sexy" players the men couldn't be able to say what they do and get away with it.

Steve Tignor shared this anecdote from Billie Jean King's biography.
...Here’s what Billie Jean King wrote in her autobiography about her attempt to join forces with the men during their boycott of Wimbledon in 1973:

"At this time," she wrote, "I was leading the movement to create the Women’s Tennis Association just as Ashe and several other men had spearheaded the Association of Tennis Professionals the September before.

"Never mind that the so-called Association of Tennis Professionals would not admit female tennis professionals; I went to Arthur and the other leaders of the ATP, and I told them, ‘Look, we want to support you in this fight, so let’s work together and if you do boycott Wimbledon, we’re very likely to walk out with you.’

“Now get the picture: the men have a dispute, and we are offering, free and clear, no strings attached, to stick our necks out and support them ... So it was utterly in the men’s self-interest to accept our assistance. And did they? They wouldn’t even respond. I was never able so much as to get the ATP leaders to sit down and explore matters.”

Has anything changed? Will anything change with the resignation of Ray Moore? Sadly, the only thing I can say is no, nothing will change for the female tennis player until the WTA becomes what I think Ms King and the other founding members of the WTA wanted: an organization that works as hard as it's members do to show women's tennis as a viable, strong sport. Right now WTA members don't have that.

©Savannah's World 2016 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sometimes The Truth Hurts

by Savannah

Literally a few minutes ago tennis writer Ben Rothenberg posted a statement made by the Tournament Director (TD) of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California.

 photo 7d814afb-ec90-4434-9779-8234095f4861_zpsljmke7ct.jpg

Fans of women's tennis were immediately up in arms but let's look at what he is saying using some hard facts about the WTA's organization.

The WTA has done nothing to promote women's tennis. It has promoted certain individuals but never women's tennis. Compare their work to that of the ATP when it comes to up and coming players just within the last month. We've seen a big promotion for their young men and not just some of them, all of them. What's the wTA been doing? Speaking out in defense of a woman who admittedly has been doping for ten years. When have you seen them speak out in defense of their top player? When have you seen the WTA promote anyone who wasn't blonde? Your top ten outside of Serena Williams and a suspended player is unknown to the majority of sports fans.

Now reread Raymond Moore's comments in that light. I've been saying the same thing about the WTA for as long as I've been writing this blog.

Let's see if and how the WTA responds.

©Savannah's Tennis 2016 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


by Savannah

Roger Goodell, head of the NFL, is in hot water with the NFLPA. Rumors are swirling about the way he handled, or hasn't handled, let's call them indiscretions by NFL players. It took awhile for this to happen but it just may. There haven't been any real threats to his leadership despite all the shenanigans. Time will tell if he will be held responsible for his actions, or lack thereof.

Then we have the newly installed head of the Women's Tennis Association, Steve Simon . This is what he said yesterday.

"She does not want to end her career this way and I know she feels the mistake is on her," Simon told the newspaper. "She is not saying she didn’t do it. She’s responsible for what goes into her body and this has been a terrible, terrible mistake she made. But I remain convinced it was an honest mistake.”

Like many tennis insiders he then continued his double speak.

“It is effectively out of the WTA’s hands at this point because the process is independent and I think very healthy because the last thing we want in our sport is when the governing body is judge and jury,” Simon said. "We have seen the repercussions of what that can bring (in other sports) and they determine the appropriate discipline and we are 100 percent supportive of whatever that might be.”

I'm really sick of this. It's like they're saying "We know she's a drug cheat. We know she's been at it for ten years. And yes she ignored multiple warnings made through the usual channels but it was all a mistake."

This is the tack Maria Sharapova and her team have taken. I get the feeling that WADA doesn't give a rats ass about her Princess status in the minds of some in leadership capacity in tennis. The head of the WTA should be sitting down and talking with staff about the consequences of those ten years of using a drug that treats medical conditions she doesn't have. Forfeiture of January winnings? Banned from the sport? Stripping of titles? Nope. He's trying to influence the court of public opinion in to thinking Sharapova is the wronged party here. Not the players she played and won against while under the influence so to speak. Not the sport of tennis that she slandered with an ill written and conceived rant on Facebook. She can't be severely punished because she's Maria Sharapova, the face of women's tennis. It's all just a mistake.

Be aware that he did not say she declared the drug on the paperwork she submitted in Melbourne during the Australian Open. We're hearing less and less of that. If she had declared I think her lawyer would've been waving the papers around in front of cameras already.

Can you imagine the head of any national or international sport calling a positive drug test an "honest mistake"? He would be out of a job.

They keep saying "she does not want to end her career this way". As I've been saying let's wait and see what happens.

She's BACK!

Stacey Allaster...joining the U.S.T.A. in a newly created post...will oversee its pro tennis division.
via Christoper Clarey

Hasn't this woman done enough to tennis?
Why did the USTA feel the need to create a position for her? Why didn't Tennis Canada create the position?
Why is U.S. Open tournament director David Brewer will reporting to her?

Again, from Christopher Clarey's article.

(Gordon)Smith said Allaster’s responsibilities would include the United States Open, the Emirates Airlines U.S. Open Series, the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. But he said she would also be involved at the lower levels, overseeing the pro-circuit events. One of the goals is to increase youth participation, using the pro events in the United States as inspiration.

It is a time of change at the U.S.T.A. and the United States Open, with major construction underway at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, including the completion of a new roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. A new facility, the U.S.T.A. National Campus, is set to open this year on 63 acres at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., and will serve, among other purposes, as a national training center.

There is also no shortage of challenges, including keeping the Miami Open, the prestigious event that has had expansion plans blocked in the Florida courts, in the United States despite the high demand for staging Masters 1000 events internationally.

“We think it’s very important that we do everything possible to keep the Miami event in this country, and that will be very much a role that Stacey will play for us,” Smith said.

Wasn't Martin Blackman hired to be head of USTA Player Development? Wasn't Katrina Adams made Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of the United States Tennis Association?

Gordon Smith, Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer of the USTA, has added another layer of management. The way this reads is that the TD of the US Open must clear everything he does with Allaster. Adams, on paper, could also have to run everything she does past Allaster. Blackman and his team may have to submit their plans for funding, etc through Allaster who owes nothing to anyone except Smith.

The USTA had the now proverbial 99 problems. Allaster is not the solution to any of them.

©Savannah's World 2016 All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Week That Was

by Savannah

The week that the tennis world found out that the woman who had been chosen as the face of her sport was doping for the last ten years is drawing to a close. Everyone, tennis fans and non fans is talking about the fall from grace of Maria Sharapova and what it means for the future of women's tennis.

Some of her fans (and those who are paid or not paid) to promote her on social media, are promoting a few things now.

  • She wasn't "officially doping" until January 1, 2016.
  • She is being persecuted because she is Russian.
  • The effects of meldonium are negligible, no more rousing than a double expresso.
  • A TUE may be granted.

Okay lets go one point at a time.

A man or woman hitting bottom and showing up at an AA, NarcAnon or Gamblers Anonymous meeting isn't a newly formed addict. They've engaged in the behavior that brought them to that meeting for many years and have finally reached the point where they can't stand themselves either. Acknowledging the fact that they're addicts doesn't mean that as of the day of their first meeting they became an addict does it?

Let's be clear. I'm not saying Ms Sharapova is a junkie. I'm making an analogy. However, what do you call someone who takes a medication they don't need (it bears repeating that her lawyer never said she had any of the medical conditions meldonium treats and that mentioning diabetes was a really silly thing to do) for ten years? Drugs like Vicodin, oxycontin and adderall all treat specific physical conditions, temporary or permanent. Those who take them when they're not needed are called what? Addicts. In sports they're called dopers.

Let's turn to sports then, specifically Lance Armstrong. He strongly denied, for years, that he was using PED's. He destroyed the careers of those who insisted that he did use them. And when the truth was revealed sports media was left with egg on its collective face. They'd reported the denials as truths and vilified those who "were out to get Armstrong" for years. And they were wrong.

It's because of the Armstrong case that I'm still surprised that Ms Sharapova and her lawyer took a page out of that book and came out of the gate charging citing medical use that has yet to be proven, telling a closed door meeting with chosen members of the press that Ms Sharapova had listed the drug on her declaration sheets she'd given to the ITF during the AO, and putting out cheerful press releases saying "the world is with Maria" and showing her romping on the beach with an unidentified male who was wearing a shirt that said "Sven" on the back. I should note in passing that none of the men who have coached Maria since her father stepped aside have said a word. Not one word that I'm aware of as I type this.

A Russian friend made me aware that the Russian press was taking the tack that Russian athletes were being persecuted by the West for geopolitical reasons. That argument has gone from one made only in Russian language forums to non Russian fan forums. I don't know what to say except that if even after the ban close to 60 of your athletes have tested positive for a drug that was on the watch list for all of 2015 and officially banned at the beginning of 2016 there is cause for concern.

I'm seeing this argument a lot now because fans are asking if tennis and sports media would've stepped so lightly if the person found to have doped for ten years was another player. "It's not racial" they say. Uh huh. I'll be charitable and say they're delusional. Or that their jobs depend on them pushing that meme.

If the effects of meldonium are so negligible why were so many athletes using it? Did it give them a buzz of some kind? Or did it, as has been alleged, increase endurance? Tennis fans can cite matches where Sharapova showed miraculous fight and endurance and many admire her for that if for nothing else. If it was so above board why did Sharapova, a 21 year resident of the US, have to buy the drug on her own after it was prescribed by a "family doctor" who has yet to be identified? If a doctor in the US prescribed and provided it to her he or she has probably hired a lawyer by now. If the doctor is based in Eastern Europe or Russia he or she is simply shrugging their shoulders and asking "what?".

Then there's the TUE (therapeutic use exemption) solution that was being bandied about. There are four criteria that have to be met in order for a TUE to be granted. You can't meet some of the criteria you have to meet them all.

1.1.2. Criteria for granting a TUE

The four criteria that must be fulfilled before a TUE is granted are set forth
in the International Standard for TUEs:

1. “The Athlete would experience a significant impairment to health if
the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld in
the course of treating an acute or chronic medical condition.” (Article
4.1 a. of the International Standard for TUEs.)

2. “The Therapeutic Use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited
Method would produce no additional enhancement of performance
other than that which might be anticipated by a return to a state of
normal health following the treatment of a legitimate medical
The Use of any Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method to increase
“low-normal” levels of any endogenous hormone is not considered an
acceptable Therapeutic intervention.” (Article 4.1b of the International
Standard for TUEs.)
Enhancement of performance should be taken to mean the return by the
Athlete to his/her level of performance prior to the onset of the medical
condition requiring treatment. This means that there may be some
enhancement of individual performance as a result of the efficacy of the
treatment. Nevertheless, such enhancement must not exceed the level of
performance of the Athlete prior to the onset of his/her medical condition.

3. “There is no reasonable Therapeutic alternative to the Use of the
otherwise Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method.” (Article 4.1
c of the International Standard for TUEs.)
Two points should be noted in relation to reasonable Therapeutic
 Only valid and referenced medications are considered as
 The definition of what is valid and referenced may vary from one
country to another. These differences should be taken into
account. For example, a medication may be registered in one
country and not in another, or approval may be pending, etc.

4. “The necessity for the Use of the otherwise Prohibited Substance or
Prohibited Method cannot be a consequence, wholly or in part, of
prior non-Therapeutic Use of any Substance from the Prohibited
List.” (Article 4.1 d. of the International Standard for TUEs.)

Once these guidelines were posted on Twitter the TUE option kind of went away. Some fanatics tried to post only some of the requirements but other fans posted all four.

So what conclusions are to be drawn?

Ms Sharapova's lawyer John Haggerty did an interview with Simon Cambers of The Guardian newspaper where he appears to walk back several of the talking points that had been put to the public. The following is from that interview linked above.

Q) Did she put meldonium on those forms?
A) Maria never took meldonium, she took mildronate. I’m in the process … I’ve yet to review those forms so I can’t answer that question. I simply do not know.
Q) There has been talk that Maria could ask for a retrospective TUE (therapeutic use exemption). Has Maria asked for one, can she ask for one?
A) We’re evaluating all of Maria’s options and since the TUE process is confidential I’m not in a position to be able to comment either way in what she has or has not done in that regard.
Q) Is there a time limit on doing this?
A) I’m not aware of any timeframe with regard to submission of such a thing.
Q) Meldonium is not licensed in the US so there are questions about where Maria got it from, as individuals are banned from importing it into the US. Has the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) been in touch with you?
A) The FDA has not been in touch with me. It is an over-the-counter medicine that is readily available in a number of countries. Maria legally purchased it and obtained it and has been taking it per her doctor’s recommendations.
Q) So would she have been buying it outside of the US?
A) Given that goes into the medical records and out of respect for the ITF (International Tennis Federation) process, I’m not going to be able to respond to that.

Poor Lindsay Davenport. She's become collateral damage in this situation. She reported to Tennis Channel viewers what Haggerty said in that closed door invitation only meeting - that the forms submitted in Melbourne showed meldonium as one of the drugs she was taking. Sharapova's fans are still trying to say "but Lindsay said" but that doesn't wash since Sharapova's lawyer waffled when asked about it directly.

Saying that it was Mildronate and not meldonium is ridiculous since they're one and the same. Mildronate is the name it's sold to the public by. Meldonium is the active ingredient, the generic name much is the way "Advil" is the retail name for ibuprofen. I give credit to Cambers for asking where she got it from. His question provoked another non answer from Haggerty.

So back to those conclusions.

Ms Sharapova's people have been silent for a couple of days now. Again I'm writing this post so I haven't been able to check and see if anything new has been said by anyone associated with the case.

Tennis media has also gone pretty quiet. There really isn't much to say now is there? Chris Evert, with whom I've had many disagreements, did an interview with ESPN that is must see video. I think she sums things up better than anyone else has so far. As we all know she can't be called an apologist for any player other than Sharapova. In that she went along with the entire ESPN on air staff. Here is the link to her interview . It was after this that a lot of the reporting changed from rah-rah to taking a sober look at the facts.

While watching tennis yesterday in the middle of a match Mary Carillo and Lindsay Davenport started talking about if Maria Sharapova is required to give back the money she won at Melbourne it should be evenly distributed among the players she beat.

I will repeat what I said in my first post about this. All any of us can do is wait.

© Savannahs World 2016 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


by Savannah

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports photo 06d21a3a-8ee3-4658-9dc7-71e8a84b24fe_zpsgrjq0ma1.jpg
via Jayne Kamin-Oncea USA Today

It's no secret. Back in the day there were sports heroes and heroines. Men and women who were sold to the public at large as examples of all that sports should exemplify - fairness, honesty, respect for one's teammates. These athletes got away with things because sports reporters made their living based on access to the star. No one was going to report Mickey Mantle's problems with alcohol because he was Mr. Yankee, blond, Southern, all aw shucks and a shy confident grin. Towards the end of Mantle's life the truth couldn't be hidden anymore. Drugs? Some MLB teams are now known to have stocked "green pills" that helped a player get over a night out partying.

Some readers may have no idea who Mickey Mantle was since baseball is really not a world sport so lets fast forward to 2016. Something called the internet (interwebs by some) has taken sports reporting out of an all male closed environment and made it something that everyone, male or female, young or old, can do. Thirty years ago there was no such thing as a blogger. Now there are superfans all over the world following the exploits, good or bad of the best of the best and maybe the almost best. Fandoms are varied and all kinds of people now write about and expose the actions of their faves, good or bad, not only to the country they live in but to the world. Some sports have taken steps to control the narrative. The NBA and NFL lead in this category. Fans were given the ability to watch the NFL Combine, the process by which prospective players try out for teams. Unprecedented. The NBA saw fans were making their own gifs of great and not so great moments so now we have NBA Memes. A superstar athlete needs more than an agent these days. He or she needs a team to handle press, internet and print media. No serious sports fan thinks their fave is posting their own Tweets, Facebook entries or Instagram photos. They have people for that and those people go along with what the agent who oversees it all wants to project to the public before posting anything.

It's no different in tennis. An image is decided on for a top player and any photos, press releases, press conferences are tightly scripted to make sure the athlete, and the people covering the beat, stick to the script. Added to the professionals are families. The more successful the player the more likely you are to find a tight knit group of people, often family, who further make sure the agreed upon image of the star is adhered to. The best examples of this are of course Venus Williams and Serena Williams whose parents stood at the gate and fought off all comers until their daughters were old enough to understand how the game is played and they were able to step back from the spotlight.

The other example of this is Maria Sharapova. Her father, Yuri Sharapov, singlehandedly manned the gate for many years stepping away when his daughter felt secure enough to manage her own affairs. This is an important step in the life of a tennis player. They are the center of their own universes and it's clear that there are some who publicly revel in the power they have over their lives and the lives of their employees. Others keep their actions behind the scenes while others publicly revel in the role of Head Bitch in Charge.

This leads to awkwardness at times. Some fans of Serena for instance didn't like the change from her parents to a team that included people they didn't know and were predisposed to dislike. It had to be pointed out to them that it is Serena calling the shots and that questioning her team was questioning her management of her career. It took time but they backed down.

The title of this blog post is entitlement though and I think the above seeming diversion is a necessary lead in to the situation the WTA, and tennis, finds itself in regarding Maria Sharapova.

It's been clear for many years that the dominant player in women's tennis has been Serena Williams. For reason's I'm not going into it was decided years ago by the people in charge of tennis, that it would be Maria Sharapova who would be marketed not just to tennis fans but to the world as the face of women's tennis. After her Wimbledon win in 2004 those inside tennis thought the sky was the limit, that she would dominate women's tennis. She's won four Slams since then but has become rich from endorsements fueled by that win twelve years ago. "Best paid female athlete in the world" is her claim to fame.

Despite the sunlight being let into various dark corners of the sport there are things that are still done behind the scenes, things that never reach the public. Late withdrawal? No problem for Sharapova while her "nemesis" is vilified by tennis media for withdrawing from tournaments that in many cases she never intended to play. We the general public will never know everything that went on behind the scenes but with the events of Monday, March 7, 2016 the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Ms Sharapova believed herself to be untouchable, that whatever tale she spun for the public would be accepted because after all she is Maria Sharapova.

The best description of Monday's stunning press conference was done by BBC reporter Tom Fordyce which is quoted below.

Black blouse, pale face. That was Maria Sharapova as she announced her failed drugs test.

Sharapova, a woman so focused on the small details that, according to her long-time agent Max Eisenbud, she will peel the label off bottles of water she drinks in nightclubs just in case someone takes a photo of her with a product she has not yet endorsed, has attacked this storm as she does a struggling opponent on court.

Announcements of failed tests are supposed to come from the sport's governing body. That can leave time for rumours to swirl and opinions to harden. Consider everything Sharapova did in that Los Angeles hotel on Monday in that light.

The backdrop: beige curtain. Sober. Calm. The outfit: black shirt with long sleeves, long black trousers. An ensemble for mourning, an image of gravity and abstinence.

The legal position once she failed that test for meldonium is straightforward. Either she has deliberately taken it, knowing it is banned - which is cheating - or she has deliberately taken it and not known it is banned - which is negligence. According to anti-doping protocols, a suspension automatically follows either way.

There is no room in that legal process for emotion. Which is why an athlete looking for sympathy and leniency will introduce it as soon as they can.

The first six words Sharapova spoke appeared to be beautifully chosen. "I wanted to let you know..." Personal. Thoughtful. Not "I have been forced to…" or "You would have found out anyway", but an act of choice, an almost moral decision to keep us informed.

"…that a few days ago I received a letter from the ITF that I have failed a drugs test." The introduction of the idea that it is all new to her, that she has been taken by surprise; that this is something happening to her from the outside.

"For the past 10 years I have been given a drug called mildronate by my family doctor…" Not Sharapova choosing to take it. Not a dodgy pharmacist or lab rat, but a family doctor.

"A few days ago, I found out it also has another name, which is meldonium, which I did not know." Not that the drug was on the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) watch-list for the whole of 2015, or that it was announced in September that it would be banned, or that Sharapova received an email to that effect six months ago.

Instead, confusing old science. No reference to Wada's announcement of its 2016 prohibited list, released on 16 September 2015, which prominently contains this sentence: "Meldonium (mildronate) was added because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance."

"It's very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on the banned list, and I was legally taking this medicine."

A solid reference to the legality of taking it, rather than the fact that meldonium has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the US, where Sharapova has lived for the past 21 years, or that the use of a drug to treat chronic heart failure seems curious in an otherwise phenomenally fit young woman.

And so it went on. The idea that the essence of the crime was not to click on a link in an email sent by Wada, when everyone listening to her around the world also regularly does not click on links in emails.

The full article is worth a read but the important point is that Ms Sharapova claimed that she didn't click on one link in an email notifying her of the upcoming ban. It's now been revealed that there were five notifications, including wallet cards so that a player would have a handy list of banned substances. The name of this family doctor has not been revealed. Her lawyer, in his carefully crafted statement, made it clear that his client does not have any of the ailments the drug was created to treat. One claim, that it could be used to treat prediabetes has been said by the manufacturer to be false.

The other argument Ms Sharapova and her defenders are making is that the drug was legal until January 1, 2016. That is not totally true either. It was on the WADA watch list all of 2015 yet Ms Sharapova continued to take it. The legitimate purpose of the drug is to treat heart failure so why would an 18 year old professional athlete nned it?

There is also the fact that as Mr. Fordyce pointed out Ms Sharapova has lived in the United States for the past 21 years. The drug is not approved for use in the United States which means no licensed physician in this country can prescribe it.

And let's not forget that Ms Sharapova admits to having taken the drug for ten years. The prescribed course of treatment is 4-6 weeks. No one is supposed to be on this drug for a decade.

The spin from her team continues unabated though. Christopher Clarey of the NY Times reprted the following this morning.
It is possible that she will not play on tour again. She will turn 29 next month and has talked in the past about not competing past 30. Her ban could be as long as four years if she is found to have intentionally ingested a performance-enhancing substance.

The more likely outcome, according to legal experts consulted Tuesday, is that she will not be deemed guilty of intentionally trying to cheat, which would mean that she would be subject to a maximum suspension of two years.

“I think that is the most likely outcome from what I heard in the press conference,” said Paul Greene, an American sports lawyer and founder of Global Sports Advocates, who has represented athletes, including the American tennis player Robert Kendrick, in arbitration cases involving doping.


Greene said there was also the possibility of applying retroactively for a therapeutic-use exemption for meldonium, which would be based on Sharapova’s long-term medical usage. If approved, it could absolve her.

“That would be the first thing I would counsel her to do, is to apply for a retroactive T.U.E.,” he said. “It’s a tough standard to meet, a much harder standard than a forward-going T.U.E., but I’ve had a case in the past where that happened, and I’ve gotten retroactive T.U.E.s. that have wiped out adverse analytical findings. It’s not impossible.”

John Haggerty, Sharapova’s lawyer, was asked about that possibility. “Maria and I are looking at all our options,” he said. He also declined to comment, citing confidentiality, on whether Sharapova had listed meldonium, which is also known as mildronate, on her doping control form when she had given samples in the past.

Sharapova said she had been taking the drug, which Haggerty said she knew under the name of mildronate, since 2006 to treat a variety of medical conditions, including irregular EKG results and indicators of diabetes, a condition for which she said she had a family history.

Haggerty rejected suggestions from some prominent doctors that the drug was poorly suited to resolve Sharapova’s declared conditions, including diabetes, and said the drug also provided “cell protection.”

Haggerty said the confidentiality requirements of the coming hearing precluded him from identifying the doctor who prescribed the medicine, which is not approved for sale in the United States but is widely available without a prescription in Russia and some other European nations. Haggerty also indicated that it was only one of several drugs Sharapova was prescribed at the time.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding that Maria took mildronate and only mildronate, and that was to address all of her medical conditions,” Haggerty said. “She took mildronate and a number of other medicines.”

They think they can get away with that last statement huh? If that was the case why wasn't that said during the presser? If they apply for a T.U.E. won't they have to reveal everything she was taking? Do they really want to risk that? They're also waffling about her having listed the drug on her statement made to officials during the Australian Open. I get the feeling officials let her and her team know that they were not going to cover her ass by refusing to release whatever she listed.

It seems to me they're looking for someone in an official capacity to cave, to say she is above the rules other athletes live by and let her off scot free. Isn't that how things have always broken for her? That's the only conclusion I can draw since it's clear she ignored the warnings and continued to take the drug. Only a massive sense of entitlement would allow someone to do what Ms Sharapova seems to have done.

To quote Caroline Wozniacki :

“Anytime we take any medication, we double- and triple-check,” Wozniacki said. “Sometimes even a thing like cough drops and nasal spray can be on the list. So as athletes we make sure not to take something that would put us in a bad situation.”

This story is not over. I'll update when news breaks.

© Savannahs World 2016 All rights reserved unles otherwise indicated

Monday, March 7, 2016

Maria Sharapova Tests Positive

by Savannah

via Getty photo da1386f0-c3a8-4421-bc5f-cd500f89c86b_zpsxwxnpym2.jpg
via Getty

There are so many questions. I never thought she was going to announce her retirement today but I'd be lying if I said doping even crossed my mind.

Let's look at the drug itself.

Here's a description by Herman Ram of the Netherlands, the head of that country's anti doping authority.

“Enhances stamina”

While doctors in the USA and the EU cannot prescribe the drug –meldoinum is not registered as a medicine- it’s often used in Eastern Europe by people with heart failure or people who suffer from chestpains whilst doing exercise. (…)

The Latvian pharmaceutics Grindeks in Riga praises the use also for healthy people. “Enhances the stamina and brain function of heartpatients and healthy people”

And this from the National Institute of Health

To date, substances such as Mildronate (Meldonium) are not on the radar of anti-doping laboratories as the compound is not explicitly classified as prohibited. However, the anti-ischemic drug Mildronate demonstrates an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress, and enhanced activations of central nervous system (CNS) functions. In the present study, the existing evidence of Mildronate's usage in sport, which is arguably not (exclusively) based on medicinal reasons, is corroborated by unequivocal analytical data allowing the estimation of the prevalence and extent of misuse in professional sports. Such data are vital to support decision-making processes, particularly regarding the ban on drugs in sport.

It should be noted that during her press conference Ms Sharapova never said she had any of the health issues that would make this drug something she would need (a heart condition, diabetes) but she said that family members had the issues.

So what do we know?

We know that she's been taking this drug for ten years.

Russian sources are saying that warnings went out to it's athletes around October 2015 to stop using meldonium.

Sharapova admits she got an email but says she didn't open it.

Eastern Euopean athletes use the substance regularly.

Sharapova's attorney is attempting to negotiate the length of the ban which can be either 2 years or 4 years depending on intent.

To my knowledege they haven't taken away her Australian Open points

A few weeks ago I wrote about the use of hyperbaric chambers and how they might be banned at some future date. I think the future date for Maria Sharapova has come. If she is allowed to negotiate how long her ban will be then everyone after her should be afforded the same right.

The implications of a top athlete doping, in retrospect, for ten years, gives one pause and has to be cause for concern for tennis officials.

As for fans like us it's too soon to draw conclusions or throw out wild accusations. The only time Sharapova showed emotion was when she said she doesn't want to end her career like this. For now all of the questions on the tip of our tongues should be put on hold. We'll all have to wait and see.

© Savannahs World 2016 All rights reserved except where indicated