• Mladenovic: ‘She has been taking this for 10 years and it is a serious drug’
• Simona Halep: ‘I didn’t speak to her before, so there is no reason to speak now’
The gloves have well and truly come off. After a few days when Maria Sharapova might have thought she was winning over those who doubt her explanation of why she has failed a drugs test, France’s Kristina Mladenovic said she was speaking for everyone on Tour when she said: “All the players are saying she’s a cheater.”
Sharapova, who began a provisional ban on Saturday and faces a lengthy suspension after testing positive for meldonium, has never been the most popular of players with her peers, always eschewing the locker-room in favour of a quick getaway. But while Novak Djokovic was among those to express sympathy on a human level for “a friend”, Mladenovic let rip.
“All the other players are saying she’s a cheater,” she said. “You sure doubt and think that she didn’t deserve all she won until now. That’s dreadful, but it’s good that it’s finally out. As far as I am concerned if I take an aspirin I worry 10 times about what I do. She’s been taking this drug for 10 years and it’s a serious drug. She has played with the rules and thought, if it’s not banned, then I can take it. For me that’s very disappointing. I don’t like the mentality to be the best by playing with the rules.
“She can play with words and find a good lawyer but on the principles of the situation, she’s wrong,” Mladenovic told the French newspaper Le Parisien. “She has no excuse that can defend what she’s done. For me there’s no doubt.
“She wasn’t really liked. I respected her for her career but she wasn’t really nice nor polite, let’s be honest. At least the good news to come out of all of this is that the anti-doping programme is working and that even if you’re among the best players you’re going to get caught and it’s going to get out.”
Others have also been far from supportive. The world No5, Simona Halep, asked whether she had spoken to Sharapova, said: “I didn’t speak with her before; there’s no reason to speak now.” Agnieszka Radwanska, the world No3, said all the players watched Sharapova’s press conference in the locker-room in Indian Wells.
Sharapova has said she will accept the consequences after failing to read at least one emailed warning that meldonium was to be added to the banned list on 1 January. But the Russian and her legal team have been conducting their defence in a very public manner, using her latest Facebook post to deny claims from the International Tennis Federation, which administers the tennis anti-doping programme, that she received five warnings.
The 28-year-old says she has been taking the drug over a 10-year period for medical reasons, but could be banned for as long as four years if she is found guilty of deliberately taking the drug to enhance performance. Her legal team argues the dosage was too low to have any benefit.