Serena Williams lauds Maria Sharapova for owning up to failed drug test

Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova
Getty Images
2 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams says Maria Sharapova “showed a lot of courage” in taking responsibility for her failed drug test.

On Monday, the Russian star revealed she tested positive the day she lost to Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January. At a news conference Tuesday to promote an exhibition at Madison Square Garden, Williams didn’t want to talk about the fact she had faced an opponent with a banned substance in her system.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion said that like the rest of the sports world, she was “surprised and shocked” to hear the news about Sharapova.

“I think most people were happy she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year,” Williams said.

Sharapova announced she tested positive for meldonium, a blood flow-promoting drug she said she had been taking for 10 years for various health issues. Meldonium was banned because it aids oxygen uptake and endurance, and players were notified of the changes in the WADA banned substances list in December. Sharapova claimed she simply neglected to click on the link.

She could face a long ban from the International Tennis Federation, possibly ending her season and preventing her from competing at the Olympics.

“It’s just taking responsibility, which she admitted that she was willing to do and ready to do,” Williams said. “Just hope for the best for everybody in that situation.”

Sharapova and Williams have had some barbed words for each other in the past off the court, but on Tuesday, Williams was fully supportive. While Sharapova is one of her biggest rivals based on the Russian’s results and five major titles, Williams has dominated the head-to-head series, winning the last 18 meetings over more than a decade.

“As Maria said, she’s ready to take full responsibility,” Williams said. “She showed a lot of courage and a lot of heart. I think she’s always shown courage and heart in everything she’s done, and this is no different.”

A fellow Nike endorser, Williams declined to comment on the shoe company’s decision to suspend its relationship with Sharapova.

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Caroline Wozniacki, who faces Williams in the exhibition Tuesday night, agreed with her good friend’s assessment of Sharapova’s announcement. Wozniacki acknowledged, though, the lengths elite athletes typically go through to ensure they don’t accidentally ingest banned substances.

“Any time we take any medication, we double, triple and quadruple check, because sometimes even things like cough drops or nasal sprays can be on the list,” Wozniacki said. “I think as athletes we always make sure to really make sure there’s nothing in it.”

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin, who was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Tuesday, said many questions needed to be answered before she could judge Sharapova’s case.

“I think we’re all a little bit sad and disappointed about the situation,” she said on a conference call. “It’s never good for the game.”

Marat Safin, who on Tuesday became the first Russian elected to the Tennis Hall, agreed, noting that it’s not uncommon for players to miss that a substance has been added to the banned list. He said he believed that Sharapova did not intend to cheat, but then quickly added: “I want to believe so.”

MORE: More Russians test positive for meldonium

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
Getty
0 Comments

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!