Maria Sharapova shows no remorse as she reflects on ban

Maria Sharapova shows no remorse as she reflects on ban
Maria Sharapova showed no remorse for her doping scandal on Tuesday as she spoke at a press conference ahead of her return to the sport next month.

The 29-year-old teared up as she spoke about being banned from the game but made no apologies for it, instead telling an audience in Rancho Mirage, California, that she felt vindicated to have had her punishment reduced.

She even slipped in a drugs joke while explaining how she’d spent some of her time off at the hedonistic music festival Coachella.

‘I was like oh so this is what is about – there is a 120,000 doing drugs that I am not aware of.’

Later, she said jovially: ‘I am skipping Coachella this year. I got my day job back!’

Sharapova was speaking at the ANA Inspiring Women Conference when she made the remarks.It was her first public speaking appearance since she was banned from tennis after being found with meldonium in her system at the 2016 Australian Open.

She was suspended from the sport in March while officials carried out an investigation and received her formal ban in June.

Officials initially banned her for two years but the punishment was reduced to 15 months after the Court of Arbitration for Sport recognized that her doping was unintentional. (Sharapova had been taking the drug for 10 years to treat a magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes before it was added to the World Anti Doping Agency’s banned list in 2015).

She fought the ban from the start, insisting she had done now wrong. On Tuesday, she carried on that same defiance as she reflected on the year.

‘To be in a moment where you feel or felt like you could have ended on someone else’s voice and someone else’s terms was very difficult to accept and that is why I fought so hard for the truth to be out.

‘You don’t realize how much you love something and how much something means to you until you lose it for some time,’ she said.

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She even joked that she used the time off to attend Coachella where ‘120,000’ were doing drugs

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Sharapova was yet to receive her formal ban from the sport when she attended the music festival in April. She had been suspended in March after failing a drug test at the Australian Open that January

Asked what ‘stings’ most about it, she told the host, ESPN’s Julie Fouldy, that it was ‘the part where something was taken away from you that you have done so passionately since you were a little girl.’

‘As an athlete – there is a constant daily cycle in the a tennis life that is ten months out of the year, and a very short off season. It is a lifestyle and yes it is a choice and It becomes your life, and although that I am at a stage and an a ge in my career where you are closer to the end than to the beginning, you always want to end a career or chapter in your life on your terms, and in your voice.’

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Sharapova on January 26, the ninth day of the Australian Open in Melbourne

Dressed casually in a pale denim jacket, striped t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, the often stony-faced star showed flickers of emotion as she relived the horror of the ban.

She admitted how she didn’t accept the ban when it was first handed down and even continued training, wrongly expecting to be allowed back to the sport within a few months.

‘I was training quite hard for the first four months of it because I thought maybe there was a chance I would go back quicker in the summer. I should have realized I didn’t have the opportunity or chance.’

Eventually, she slowed down and embraced the rare break by traveling, spending time with friends and studying.

The downtime showed her life would be ‘OK’ without it.

‘I learned life is OK without tennis which is a scary thought when you have done something for so long; you think how am I going to feel when you don’t have that.

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‘But it gave me the chance to realizes you are one the ones that creates your life and your opportunities.’

While eager to make her return to the sport at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, on April 26, the blonde sports icon is placing just as much focus on her personal life.

Notoriously private when it comes to romance, Sharapova has not made public whether or not she is in a relationship but she said she hopes to start a family.

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Sharapova used the time off to attend a business course at Harvard, travel and spent time with friends

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While money isn’t a ‘driver’ for her, Sharapova said it was ‘great’ to be able to travel in First Class and private jets

‘I want to have a family and I want to be a mother and those are long term goals of mine.’

A pregnancy could clash with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an event she steered clear of ruling out.

‘I would love to sit here today and say yes. But it is hard to look that far…but of course to compete in another Olympics is an athlete’s dream and I would love to be a part of that.’

When she returns to the sport in Germany next month, the five time Grand Slam champion will be faced with the judgement of her peers.

Pressed on how she would cope with any naysayers, she calmly vowed to focus on herself alone.

‘I don’t think there is much I can control. What I can control and have always controlled is what I can do and how I can go out there, compete and manage my career and my time and what I do with it.

‘That is bigger than any other word I can ever say – actions speak so louder than what we can ever talk about. That is what has always gotten through my career is tennis.

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On Tuesday, she signed autographs for fans at the Inspiring Women conference in California after giving her remarks

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‘Will it be difficult? Absolutely. But as a competitor you have expectations of what you can do, and for me I have always been very internal.’ She is unwavering in her optimism about the comeback.

Despite claiming the title of sport’s highest paid female athlete for the last 11 years and starting a candy company while banned from play, the Russian native said money wasn’t her motivator.

‘I don’t think money can get you internal growth. All the stats, and numbers are relevant, but they don’t make Jo or Amy happier. What makes me happier is that I am able to have a safe environment, whether my many future children are covered or my great grand children are secure and that brings happiness.

‘Money is an interesting subject. Although it is a big part of our lives, it is not a life driver.’

She did however concede its use in international travel.

‘It gave me a chance to build a home, and gets me from one tournament to another on a private jet and yeah that is great. In the last year I was going on trips with a few of my friends who couldn’t afford to fly in first class and there I was in row 28 and that is great.’

Sharapova was caught taking the drug after in 2016. She maintains she was unaware it was banned and that she had delegated the responsibility of what drugs she was allowed to take to her manager and not her coaching staff as declared on anti-doping forms.

Her punishment was laced with criticism of the World Anti-Doping Agency for not adequately informing players and their teams when new substances were added to the banned list.

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