(The Guardian) - Maria Sharapova accepts she will have a cloud of suspicion hanging over her when she returns to the game next month
The five-times grand slam champion is serving a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for the cardiac drug meldonium at the Australian Open in 2016.
Sharapova’s suspension runs out on 26 April and she will play her first match the same day, having been given a wild card into the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
The Russian’s impending return is the hottest topic in tennis, with the reaction from her fellow players largely lukewarm.
The awarding of a wild card for a tournament that begins while she is still banned has been particularly controversial, with Caroline Wozniacki branding it “disrespectful”. The French Open and Wimbledon are under pressure over whether to award entry to their former champion.
Sharapova admitted taking meldonium, insisting her only mistake was not realising the drug had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016. An initial two-year ban was reduced to 15 months on appeal to the court of arbitration for sport, which concluded she had not intended to cheat.
Asked if she expected the suspicion to linger for the rest of her career, Sharapova told Vogue: “I think if I was trying to hide something, I don’t think I would come out to the world and say I was taking a drug for 10 years.
“If I was really trying to take the easy way out, that’s not a very smart thing to do. But the answer to your question is, absolutely.”