No doubt worried that she might lose some or all of her $23 million a year endorsement fees, Maria Sharapova decided to come clean yesterday about her dope-taking. Although she’d been taking mildornate for ten years for apparently genuine reasons of health care — such as angina — as prescribed by her doctor, the substance was placed on the banned list in January. She says that she hadn’t noticed this. Did her ‘doctor’ not notice this?
In the confused world of doping and anti-doping, while the World Anti-doping Agency can certainly unambiguously test for the presence of mildornate in an athlete’s blood sample, there is no scientific evidence that the drug actually enhances an athlete’s extreme performance and stamina, as it’s claimed to. The rationale for the International Tennis Federation (ITF)’s ban is that, because so many athletes believe that mildornate is potent, then it must be so. It could be having a purely placebo effect. It’s unlikely but man’s capacity for peer persuasion is enormous, so it’s possible.
By humbling herself at her media conference, Sharapova was obviously hoping that public opinion will come out on her side and cause the ITF to moderate the possible four-year ban — starting on 12 March — to two years perhaps — or even less if that’s possible. Will Sharapova be able to keep her commercial backers alongside during the ban? I don’t know. Much depends on her real personality and how she will conduct herself generally during the ban.
Sharapova’s future endorsements will also depend on supply and demand — as always in the commercial world ! — as to whether there’s another equally beautiful white female tennis players in the top rankings. There’s Serena Williams — a player I personally warm to — but her endorsement income is nowhere near Sharapova’s because she’s black and the usual racial prejudice that is common to all races applies here.
(P.S. Not so confused after all ! Within hours of the press conference, Nike and Porsche have announced that they are withdrawing their sponsorships )