Today, Maria Sharapova announced that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January, according to Reuters.
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She said that she received a letter from the International Tennis Federation on March 2, but still doesn't know what her penalty will be. The ITF confirmed that she did fail a drug test and she will be provisionally suspended until the case is finalized.
Fellow players, sports analysts, and fans were stunned by the news that she was testing positive for the banned substance.
"I take great responsibility and professionalism in my career every day. I made a huge mistake," Sharapova said. "I let my fans down. I let my sport down."
Sharapova's lawyer, John Haggerty, described the range of penalties:
"When someone intentionally takes banned substance for performance enhancing purposes, there is a four-year ban," he said. "If it is not done intentionally, the top end of the ban is two years. If there are mitigating circumstances -- as I strongly believe there are here -- there can be an even greater reduction, including eliminating sanctions.''
Sharapova, 28, said that she was taking the drug meldonium for the last decade for health issues. Meldonium is a drug that is banned because it helps with endurance and oxygen uptake.
She blamed the flu, irregular EKGs, and evidence of diabetes. The rule was changed on January 1 to make the drug illegal, but she claims she didn't know.
"I know with this that I face consequences," Sharapova said. "I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I'm given another chance to play this game."
Meldonium is used in Lithuania and Russia, but it is not approved by the U.S. FDA. A number of other athletes have tested positive for the drug since January 1st, but few as prolific as Sharapova.
Sharapova addressed speculation that this would be her retirement announcement.
Able to keep her humor, she said: "If I was going to announce my retirement, it wouldn't be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet."
She said she tested positive in an in-competition test at the Australian Open, where she lost to Serena Williams. Sharapova hasn't played since after hurting her left forearm.
Haggerty how she could be unaware that she was taking a banned substance:
"She is very organized and she takes her career very seriously, which is why when she first started to take this back in 2006, she made sure it was approved, that it wasn't on the banned list and checked in future years. It was just an honest mistake,'' Haggerty said. "We're not making excuses but because she had taken it for so many years and it was OK year after year, it just fell off the radar."
He also agreed that the drug is banned because "it does appear that some athletes have used it in some circumstance in bigger dosages to gain some competitive advantage. Maria was taking a dosage that was significantly lower.''
When Sharapova read the letter, she was "shocked, completely stunned. She takes great pride in her integrity and the way she has approached the game all these years. She was surprised but immediately wanted to come forward and take full responsibility and acknowledge what happened.''
Sharapova has 35 career singles titles and over $36 million in career earnings. She is thought to be the world's highest-paid female athlete.
WTA CEO Steve Simon released a statement after Sharapova's announcement.
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"I am very saddened to hear this news about Maria," he said. "Maria is a leader and I have always known her to be a woman of great integrity. Nevertheless, as Maria acknowledged, it is every player's responsibility to know what they put in their body and to know if it is permissible. This matter is now in the hands of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and its standard procedures. The WTA will support the decisions reached through this process."