Tennis star Maria Sharapova tests positive for banned performance enhancing drug

By Scott Smith and Will Creighton   |   March 7, 2016 at 4:25 PM

LOS ANGELES, March 7 (UPI) -- Maria Sharapova, expected to announce her retirement from professional tennis at a press conference today, instead announced Monday that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

Sharapova says the test tripped on a drug called meldonium, which she says she's been taking legally for 10 years. It was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances on Jan. 1.

Meldonium is not approved for use in the United States but is used in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Lithuania for the treatment of heart attack and heart pain. It's also used by athletes as a performance-enhancing drug, improving endurance.

"I made a huge mistake," Sharapova said during her press conference in Los Angeles, with her parents present. "I don't want to end my career this way."

Sharapova did not reveal what her punishment might be. The press conference was streamed live on her YouTube channel.

Sharapova turned pro on April 19, 2001 – her 14th birthday. Within three years she would rocket to stardom by defeating top seed and defending champion Serena Williams in straight sets. From there, the Russian starlet powered her way to number 1 in the women's singles rankings, a position she would hold on five separate occasions.

Shoulder injuries began to derail her career in 2007, and though she would come back to claim a career Grand Slam in 2012, inconsistencies in her game prevented her from mounting a sustained challenge to Serena Williams' grip on women's tennis.

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