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Maria Sharapova faces her huge date with destiny in London over failed drug test

By Matt Slater

Published 18/05/2016

Towering achievement:Maria Sharapova shows off the trophy after her second win at the French Open in Paris
Towering achievement:Maria Sharapova shows off the trophy after her second win at the French Open in Paris
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Johanna Konta in action against Maria Sharapova during day one of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 29, 2015. See PA Story TENNIS Wimbledon. Photo credit should read Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the AELTC. Still image use only - no moving images to emulate broadcast. No superimposing or removal of sponsor/ad logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Maria Sharapova in action against Johanna Konta during the First round women's singles during day one of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 29, 2015. See PA Story TENNIS Wimbledon. Photo credit should read Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the AELTC. Still image use only - no moving images to emulate broadcast. No superimposing or removal of sponsor/ad logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts after winning her women's singles first round match against Britain's Johanna Kontaduring on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2015. Sharapova won 6-2, 6-2. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Russia's Maria Sharapova (L) shakes hands with Britain's Johanna Konta after winning their women's singles first round match on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2015. Sharapova won 6-2, 6-2. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Johanna Konta serves to Russia's Maria Sharapova during their women's singles first round match on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2015. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Johanna Konta of Great Britain serves in her Ladiess Singles first round match against Maria Sharapova of Russia during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29: Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a forehand in her Ladiess Singles first round match against Johanna Konta of Great Britain during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Maria Sharapova serves in her Ladies Singles first round match against Johanna Konta (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Russia's Maria Sharapova serves to Britain's Johanna Konta during their women's singles first round match on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2015. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Russia's Maria Sharapova returns to Britain's Johanna Konta during their women's singles first round match on day one of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on June 29, 2015. Sharapova won 6-2, 6-2. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -- AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRKGLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images
Maria Sharapova in action Johanna Konta during day one of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 29, 2015. See PA Story TENNIS Wimbledon. Photo credit should read Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the AELTC. Still image use only - no moving images to emulate broadcast. No superimposing or removal of sponsor/ad logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.
Maria Sharapova of Russia serves in her Ladies Singles first round match against Johanna Konta of Great Britain during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates winning against Caria Suarez Navarro of the Spain during day five of the China Open at the China National Tennis Center on October 1, 2014 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images)
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Maria Sharapova is picked up by racing driver Mark Webber and driven to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) pre-Wimbledon party
Maria Sharapova is picked up by racing driver Mark Webber and driven to the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Pre-Wimbledon Party
Maria Sharapova
Open race: Maria Sharapova celebrates winning her women's singles semi-final match against Eugenie Bouchard at the French Open
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Maria Sharapova of Russia serves during her women's singles match against Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria on day four of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 28, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Maria Sharapova of Russia hits a backhand during the final against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia on day seven of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix 2014 at Porsche-Arena on April 27, 2014 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates victory in the final against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia on day seven of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix 2014 at Porsche-Arena on April 27, 2014 in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova faces an anti-doping panel in London today knowing she will not benefit from recent confusion surrounding the drug she tested positive for in January.

The 29-year-old Russian stunned the tennis world in March when she announced that she had failed a test for meldonium on January 26, the day she lost an Australian Open quarter-final to Serena Williams.

The Latvian-made heart disease medication had only been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list on January 1 but had been on a watch list for over a year and all national anti-doping agencies were told in October that it would be banned.

With use of meldonium widespread across eastern Europe, Sharapova's case was the most high-profile in an avalanche of positives in the first four months of the year. As of early May, WADA said there had been 288 positive samples.

But in April, the agency was forced to make an embarrassing climbdown when it admitted there was a lack of scientific certainty on how long it takes for the drug to be completely excreted.

Early suggestions that it should be out of an athlete's system within days gave way to fears it could be present in long-term users, in trace amounts, for weeks, if not months.

This led WADA to issue new guidance, directing that samples collected before March 1 below a certain concentration could be discarded, as the athlete might be able to prove they had stopped taking it in 2015.

Last month, Belarusian doubles specialist Sergey Betov, who also tested positive at the Australian Open, was cleared by the International Tennis Federation on these grounds.

This prompted some to speculate that five-time grand slam winner Sharapova could escape without punishment, which was always mistaken as both she and her lawyer John Haggerty had already admitted she had been taking it, on her doctor's advice, throughout January.

Meanwhile, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki has withdrawn from the French Open - which starts on Sunday - due to her ongoing struggles with an ankle injury.

Wozniacki pulled out of recent clay-court tournaments in Madrid and Rome as she battles to overcome a troublesome right ankle.

Belfast Telegraph

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