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Sharapova drug test is a 'game-changer'

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Maria Sharapova’s failed drugs test is a “game-changer for life, not just for tennis”, says her former coach.

Nick Bollettieri also told the BBC he was shocked the former world number one had tested positive because “she has always been above board in everything”.

But the 84-year-old American added: “Everybody must accept responsibilities for everything they do in life.”

Sharapova, 28, has taken meldonium for health reasons since 2006, but it became a banned substance in 2016.

The Russian revealed she tested positive after losing to Serena Williams at the Australian Open in January.

The International Tennis Federation said Sharapova would be provisionally suspended from 12 March.

She could face up to a four-year ban.

Bollettieri said he believed Sharapova had made a “very honest mistake” and had not taken the drug to gain an unfair advantage.

“She said she took these for many, many years and then didn’t read the memorandum that came out,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Bollettieri has also worked with Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce

“She said she will accept the consequences, but she hopes and prays that she can be allowed to play again. What else can you say?

“I don’t think that Maria Sharapova would continue doing something, especially being in the limelight, if there was something she knew about.”

Bollettieri said he hoped tennis authorities would look back on her achievements in the game and allow her to play again.

“It’s kind of tough to find a black mark against her,” he said. “She certainly does not want to go out of tennis in this way.”

Sportswear company Nike said it was ending its association with Sharapova until investigations were complete.

Watch manufacturer Tag Heuer have already said it does not plan to extend its contract with the 2004 Wimbledon champion.

“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” said Sharapova.

With career earnings from tennis alone amounting to almost £26m, she claimed she had taken meldonium “for the past 10 years” after being given it by “my family doctor” but had known the drug as mildronate.

Maria Sharapova

Meanwhile, Russia’s tennis chief says he expects Sharapova to play at the 2016 Olympics despite her failed drugs test.

The Games in Rio de Janeiro start on 5 August.

“I think this is just a load of nonsense,” Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev told the TASS news agency.

“I think Sharapova will play at the Olympics.

“The sportsmen take what they are given by the physiotherapists and by the doctors. However, we will need to see how this will develop.”

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