Tennis superstar and one-time world number one women’s player Maria Sharapova has revealed that she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.
The Russian, 28, tested positive for meldonium, a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, is provisionally suspended from 12 March pending further action.
She called a press conference on Monday to announce thr doping failure and then apologised.
“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” said Sharapova, who won the Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old in 2004.
“For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the letter from the ITF [International Tennis Federation] I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know.”
Sharapova provided the anti-doping sample in question on 26 January, the day she lost to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada’s banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine for the past 10 years,” said Sharapova.
“But on 1 January the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known.
“I received an email on 22 December from Wada about the changes happening to the banned list and you can see prohibited items – and I didn’t click on that link.”
Sharapova has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world for the past 11 years, according to the Forbes list.
Sharapova, who turns 29 in April, hopes to be able to return to tennis in the future.
“I made a huge mistake,” she said. “I have let my fans down, and let the sport down that I have been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply.
“I know that with this I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope to be given another chance to play this game.”