Men and women love to watch athletes for what they can accomplish. Runners can complete a mile in under four minutes! Swimmers can swim the English channel in under 15 minutes! And there have been other great feats accomplished in sports. However, there are specific rules against the use of drugs by athletes because it undermines the value of a sport. For instance, Hicham El Guerrouj currently holds the male record for running a mile in the shortest amount of time – at 3 minutes and 43 second. And Svetlana Masterkova has the women’s record of 4 minutes and 12 seconds. But if it later discovered that either of these athletes were using medication to enhance their performance, fans would be disappointed, and they would lose their world-time record!
This is the disappointment felt by fans of Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova. And it’s not just fans, but other leaders of the sport may be disappointed too. Sharapova admitted that she has been using the drug meldonium (also known as mildronate) over the past ten years for a health condition. However, this medication was only recently banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), who rules over which substances are banned in sports.
In January of 2016, right before the Australian Open, WADA added meldonium on their list of banned substances. But they announced the change in September of 2015 to all athletes in an email. Apparently, Sharapova did not read the email and was unaware that the medication was banned. Sharapova claims to need the medication to treat several health concerns. She commented, “I had a deficiency in magnesium. I had irregular EKG results, and I had a family history of diabetes and there were signs of diabetes.”
Sharapova also claims she was unaware of the performance-enhancing qualities of the drug. Although the medication is not sold in the United States, it is used in Eastern European countries. Along with treating certain conditions, the medication can also enhance physical and mental functioning in those who take it, especially when taken in higher doses. This precisely why WADA banned the use of meldonium. Sadly, since the news broke, Sharapova has lost major endorsements, including Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer.
Certainly, many athletes feel a pressure to perform and to live up to their past athletic successes. In fact, today, athletes may feel this pressure from the media, friends, competitors, coaches, and even from their family. This sort of pressure could lead one to make an unprofessional decision, such as using a certain drug to enhance their physical abilities. Some athletes may even get hooked on medication or supplements that aren’t healthy. Worse, this sort of pressure could lead some athletes to use addictive medication, like steroids, and develop an addiction.
Whether Sharapova noticed any of the performance enhancing side effects of meldonium remains unclear. Fans will soon hear whether she will be banned from playing tennis after a ruling from the International Tennis Federation.
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