Maria Sharapova failed drugs test at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova announced Monday that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January.

She said she received a letter March 2 from the International Tennis Federation but has not yet found out what her penalty will be. The ITF confirmed the failed drug test and said Sharapova would be provisionally suspended until the case is finalized.

"I take great
responsibility and professionalism in my career every day," Sharapova said. "I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down. I let my sport down."

Sharapova's lawyer, John Haggerty, described the range of penalties to ESPN's Jim Caple.

"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 she had been taking the drug mildronate, also known as meldonium, for 10 years to address a number of health issues, including low magnesium levels. Meldonium is a blood flow-promoting drug banned because it aids oxygen uptake and endurance.

Sharapova said she had been getting the flu every couple months, had irregular EKGs and had evidence of diabetes, which runs in her family. She said she did not realize that mildronate and meldonium are the same drug and she was not aware when rules changed January ist to make the drug illegal. She said that when WADA sent an email about changes to the banned list in December, she did not click on the link to see that the substance had been added to the list.

"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."

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