The Curious Case of Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova made her mea culpa about Meldonium, a substance just banned by the giant isopod that is WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency. A look at the timeline of the events in the last 15 months surrounding this matter is intriguing.

1/15/2015: WADA places Meldonium on its monitoring program list. The list is not published on press releases for that month on its website. Why?

7/24/15: WADA head David Howman complains WADA budget funding should be proportional to player earnings. "When I started at WADA, Wayne Rooney was being paid $4 million a year by Manchester United," Howman told the BBC. "He's now being paid something like $30m. We were getting $20m when he first started, we're now getting $30m. Sport is saying to us (your money) should be increased but they are not doing it in the same proportion."

9/30/15: WADA adds Meldonium to the Class S4 Prohibited List starting 1/1/2016. The WADA Prohibited List also bans use of beta blockers in darts and spearfishing.

10/15/15: WADA announces its intelligence gathering and sharing initiative, whereby all athletes will have their biographical data, "athlete biological passport," social media, and whereabouts collated and data-mined for "suspicious patterns." That snicker you just heard was Edward Snowden.

11/18/15: The then-President of WADA, the aptly denominated Dick Pound, suspends the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for noncompliance, which could result in Russia missing next summer's Olympic Games in Rio. Dick Pound decreed "If they (Russia) want to be there for Rio they've got to go full speed ahead (on testing). If they start fighting over everything then fine, take your time, all the time you want but you are not going to work on your tan next summer."

1/1/16: Meldonium ban becomes official

1/25/16: Serena Williams defeats Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open. Sharapova last beat Serena in 2004, two years before Sharapova started taking Meldonium (2006).

2/6/16: WADA's chief, again -- "I could do with a lot more money," Sir Craig Reedie said in an interview with Newsweek. "WADA's total annual budget of $30 million a year is exceeded by many athletes around the world who make more than that themselves in one year." Such as Maria Sharapova.

3/7/16: Maria Sharapova announces she tested positive at the Australian Open for Meldonium, which she only knew by the name Mildronate. The drug is manufactured in Latvia and is not approved by the FDA. She said her family doctor prescribed it in 2006 for various ailments. If it was prescribed for beating Serena, Sharapova should have tried Mountain Dew instead.

3/8/16: Sharapova's largest sponsors -- Nike, TAG Hauer and Porsche -- drop her, then scurry back to their offices to play more My Little Pony. As a side note, former WADA head Dick Pound now gives high priced corporate speeches on "obtaining sponsorships, and how to negotiate and make the most of your sponsorship."

3/8/16: WADA, unable to refrain themselves, issues a press release stating -- "In order to protect the integrity of the case, WADA will refrain from commenting (except for this comment right now!) further until a decision has been issued by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Following that, WADA will review the reasons for the decision and subsequently decide whether or not to use its independent right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)."

In other words, you better punish her.

So in a nutshell: 1) Having previously tested her, WADA had to know Meldonium was present in Sharapova's bloodstream before 2016, when it was legal, 2) Russia and WADA are engaged in a massive blood feud which could result in Russia being banned from the summer Olympics, 3) WADA wants more money, all the time, 4) Sharapova is Russian, and is due to represent Russia in the Olympics that WADA is threatening to ban Russia from, and 5) WADA wants more money, all the time.

It's all very curious, but, as they say, timing is everything.

By the way, WADA has added caffeine to its soon-to-be-banned watchlist in 2016. And remember, no beta blockers while spearfishing!