Maria Sharapova doesn't deny she'd been taking meldonium since 2006, but claims to have become confused when the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently added it to their list of banned drugs.
The pharmaceutical name of the drug, mildrionate, was alegedly unfamiliar to her, the 6-2 Russian tennis star now says. "A few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF (International Tennis Federation), I found out it had another name, which I did not know," she admits.
Sharapova also concedes that when she received an email from WADA on Dec. 22 regarding changes to the list of banned drugs, she neglected to click the link to the new rules.
Her inability to understand the gravity of the rules changes as of Jan. 1 will likely result in her being suspended by the ITF.
Sharapova failed the test on Jan. 26, after losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Meldonium is generally used by heart patients suffering from angina. But athletes discovered that it's good for endurance and recovery. The drug is manufactured and marketed by the Latvia company, Grindeks, but is illegal to use in the U.S.
WADA has determined that it acts similarly to insulin. In 2015, an independent study of meldonium concluded that it "demonstrates an increase in endurance performance of athletes, improved rehabilitation after exercise, protection against stress and enhanced activation of central nervous system functions."
Sharapova has won five Grand Slam tournaments in her 13-year professional career: Wimbledon in 2004, the U.S. Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008, and the French Open in 2012 and 2014. Only 28, she's suffered a number of shoulder injuries. Sharapova is currently ranked the seventh-best female player in the world by the WTA (Women's Tennis Association). She was No. 1 as recent as 2012, before her third shoulder injury.