14:36 GMT05 March 2021
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    Maria Sharapova has thanked her fans for support expressed amid a doping scandal.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – On Monday, Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam tennis champion, said she tested positive for meldonium, a recently banned drug, at the Australian Open. Sharapova said she had been taking meldonium under the name of mildronate for 10 years for health reasons.

    "In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans. Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession… I'd like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn't anything else but to say thank you. Thank you very much," Sharapova said via Facebook.

    Meldonium was developed in Latvia to treat patients with heart conditions. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added meldonium to its banned substances list on January 1, 2016. The agency considers the drug to be a metabolic modulator that increases athletes' endurance and shortens post-exercise rehabilitation time.

    Sharapova said her family doctor started prescribing her mildronate in 2006 to deal with health problems such as irregular heartbeat. The tennis player claimed she was neither aware of the fact that mildronate was another name for meldonium, nor the fact that it was on the WADA banned list.

    The Russian tennis star was informed of her positive test for meldonium on March 2 and will be provisionally suspended starting from March 12.


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