On a day when Donald Trump has done his best to remind people of the old adage that it isn’t the original act but the cover-up that does for your reputation in the end, I see that Andy Murray has stepped in with his tuppence-worth about Maria Sharapova and her wildcard in Birmingham. The decision by the LTA to grant her one has, he says, “been a very divisive subject. Some people think it’s absolutely fine, some people think that it isn’t.”
To a degree. But what seems to have been missing from the Sharapova debate is that while it looks on the face of it to be all about drugs, in reality it is nothing of the sort. As with Trump, it’s all about the cover up. Or more specifically, it’s about the fact that Sharapova is in that group of people that seems to think the world is so stupid that they can just make anything they like up and we will all believe it.
To recap: Sharapova was banned for two years for using meldonium – a substance which had been legal for years and then suddenly wasn’t. Too blasé to notice that the rules had changed, and clearly surrounded by a support team which like her lacked attention to this particular detail, Sharapova carried on taking it after she wasn’t allowed to. She got caught.
Had she stuck her hands up at that point and said what was true, the tennis world might have forgiven her as soon as her ban had been served. “I’m sorry. Like many others, I’ve taken this stuff for years while it was a legal substance, because it gives me a bit of an edge. In the same way that some people are sharper when they take caffeine, and therefore do so within the allowable limits, I’ve taken meldonium. I was an idiot for not realising that the legal status of the drug had changed, and I hold my hands up to that. Equally let’s not pretend that my taking it for years before that moment was for some other random medical reason lacking all credibility that I might disingenuously make up. I took it because elite sport is competitive, and as all leading sportsmen know, you take any legal competitive edge if you want to get to the top.”
But that’s not what she said. Instead, she blatantly made up a pack of lies and expected the world to swallow it. She told everyone that her taking the substance was “unintentional” and that she had not tried to use a “performance-enhancing substance”.
So the reason that people hate Maria Sharapova is not that, as Eugenie Bouchard put it, she’s a “cheater”. It’s because her dishonesty takes us all for mugs.