Varvara Lepchenko, a naturalized American, tested positive four times for meldonium, according to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which found no wrongdoing on her part because “it was determined she took the substance before its ban went into effect on January 1 .”
Maria Sharapova tested positive once for meldonium, also known as mildronate, and promptly got punished for it by the ITF, which banned her for two years beginning from the 2016 Australian Open in January.
The Court for Arbitration for Sport, however, reduced the penalty to 15 months, finding no significant fault” in the glamorous tennis superstar’s use for 10 long years of the drug sold over-the-counter particularly in Latvia and Sharapova’s native Russia.
Varvara who? She was born in Uzbekistan to Ukranian parents, who had been granted asylum in the United States over alleged political persecution in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Lepchenko, now 31, has never won any Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) title.
And who is Maria? She is a five-time Grand Slam champion and, until her banning from the sport, was the highest paid female athlete in the world. Most of the companies whose products she endorsed stayed with her during the controversy.
Apparently, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was looking for a poster girl for “doping” and Sharapova was a good, make that perfect, choice—beautiful, rich, famous… and Russian, a pawn in the Cold War that did not really end in 1989.
Lepchenko does not quite fit the bill by rules of the marketing game because, for one, who would buy a tennis racket being pushed by a non-achiever?
Head, whose tennis rackets Sharapova endorsed even as she was fighting the WADA and the ITF itself, has not been reported to have been hit at all by the meldonium brouhaha.
Ford Vox, a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine and a journalist, in 2016 wrote that Maria’s suspension was “an unfair game of gotcha” by WADA.
Ivars Kalvin, a Latvian chemist who invented meldonium, also in 2016 met with the WADA to “demonstrate why he thought the drug was not a doping substance.”
The agency still went on to ban the drug.
Meanwhile, Sharapova has had a seemingly successful comeback, the latest payback for which is a fourth-round appearance in the 2017 US Open, which she won in 2006 at age 19.
She lost to Anastasija Sevastova.
Maybe the WADA and the ITF should check on Sevastova, a Latvian.
Who knows, Sharapova might have “contaminated” her?