Even with her doping ban reduced, Maria Sharapova remains a spectator. So to exercise her competitive juices she decided to play softball instead. Celebrating what she deemed a “repudiation” of her suspension by the ITF, Sharapova got lobbed sitters from rubber-armed Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on PBS last night. Rose, a longtime tennis fan and U.S. Open fixture, served as quite the capable doubles partner, setting up Sharapova to put-away all those nasty irritants that have been dogging her since testing positive for meldonium: the ITF, the press, the facts.
Sharapova played the victim, as she was only using a medically prescribed drug that, according to her, is taken as commonly as aspirin in her native Russia—the land of clear heads and rhythmic hearts. Rose did get Sharapova to admit that the ruling was not a complete exoneration, and a 15-month ban is still a significant chunk of time. But ultimately the interviewer seemed content to show that she’s not a rule-breaker just because she’s not a rule-reader.
In Rose’s defense, he did have a set of tougher questions to pose to Sharapova. However her management team sanitized anything probing pre-interview. We’ve obtained a copy of some of the questions in their before-and-after forms:
You’ve lived in the United States since the age of 7. It has the best doctors in the world. When you had your shoulder surgery, you had it done here, not Moscow. So why did you not seek medical advice in what was essentially your home country, or take medication approved for use by the FDA, and instead went to Russia to take at what that time was an experimental drug produced in Latvia?
Be honest, don’t you think Serena shows too much skin when she plays?
You had been taking meldonium consistently for 10 years to treat a heart condition. Yet not once, on any medical form filled out before a tournament, did you ever list it as a drug you were currently taking. Nor did anyone on your team outside of your agent know you were using it. How could that be unless you wanted to conceal it?
Personally, and I think I speak for most of the guests on my show, if I’m going to drive German, I much prefer Mercedes over Porsche. That said, how’s your father doing?
In your press conference you stated that one of the reasons you took meldonium is because you showed early signs of diabetes. Even though there are numerous more effective drugs to treat the disease, if that’s true can you understand that starting Sugarpova, a candy company, makes such a justification much harder to believe? Not to mention the troubling optics of a supposed diabetic peddling sweets.
The craft of being a successful businesswoman…tell me about its process.
Numerous other Russian athletes across various sports, none of whom proclaim to have a heart condition, have tested positive for meldonium. Do you see how tennis observers may find it difficult to believe that you were using it for all those years as medication, yet all these other athletes were taking it for performance-enhancing purposes?
Is it fair to say the “I” in ITF should now stand for inept?
When you made it public that you had tested positive for a banned substance that has been linked to performance enhancement, the support from your peers was hard to find. This suspension has obviously tarnished your reputation and put your previous achievements under scrutiny. What, if anything, do you think it will take to earn back some of that respect?
I’m going to quote one of my favorite songs that I think describes your career and I’d like to know if you agree: “Shooting at the walls of heartache/bang bang/I am the warrior.”