‘I fought so hard for the truth’ - Maria Sharapova’s return looms
Russian will make her return from doping suspension at Stuttgart grand prix in April
Maria Sharapova making a key note speech during the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports Conference on Tuesday. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
Maria Sharapova said she feels vindicated by the reduction of her doping suspension, adding that she “fought hard for the truth” as she prepares to return to tennis after a 15-month ban .
Russia’s former world No1 was initially barred for two years after testing positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication she had been taking for 10 years within the rules, but that was reclassified as a banned drug. She will return at April’s Porsche Grand Prix thanks to a wildcard entry and says she feels she has got her “day job back”.
Sharapova fought to overturn the ban, saying she had not been properly advised of the official change, and the court of arbitration for sport cut the ban to 15 months and said in its ruling it did not believe she was “an intentional doper”.
“Although I’m at a stage or age in my career where you’re closer to the end than your beginning, you always want to end a chapter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice,” Sharapova told the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference at Mission Hills. “That’s why I fought so hard for the truth to be out.”
Sharapova’s ban will end two days after the Stuttgart grand prix starts on April 24th but organisers have scheduled her first match for April 26th to allow her to be compete. Some players have bristled at what they feel is preferential treatment for Sharapova, who was the highest earning female athlete in the world for 11 years in a row, according to Forbes.
“For me it’s not OK and I spoke to some other players and nobody is OK with it, but it’s not up to us,” said the world No4 Dominika Cibulkova. “It’s not about her, but everyone who was doping should start from zero.”
Sharapova said she is not worried about the reception she will receive and is confident in her integrity. “When you love what you do, and do it with passion and integrity and you work hard, and you work on court number 28 when no one is watching … then you know what you stand for and you know who you are.”
She added: “I’ve got my day job back. It’s great. I’ve been training quite hard for the past four months … Will it be difficult? Absolutely.
Sharapova, who turns 30 on April 19th, kept herself busy during her tennis absence. She took a class at Harvard Business School in global strategic management, spent another 10 days in London studying leadership, interned at an advertising agency, spent a week shadowing the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and a week with Nike designers besides attending to her Sugarpova candy brand.
“I learned that life can be OK without tennis,” said Sharapova, who also just finished an autobiography scheduled to be published in September. “It was empowering.”
Yet Sharapova is eager to get back on the court. “I’ve been training quite hard for the past four months,” she said, adding it would likely take some time to pay off. “Practice is never the same as match play. I know that my mind and my body still have the motivation to be the best tennis player I can be.”