Outrage as tennis star Maria Sharapova's 15-month doping ban is referred to as a 'time out' in 'shameful' Channel 7 interview at the Australian Open draw she controversially hosted
- Tennis star Maria Sharapova conducted Australian Open women's draw
- Channel 7 interview called her 15-month doping ban, calling it a 'time out'
- Interview slammed for making it appear her suspension was a voluntary break
- Commentators were outraged she hosted the draw in the first place
- Sharapova tested positive to banned substance meldonium after the 2016 Open
The former World No. 1 controversially conducted the Australian Open women's draw on Thursday, two years after she failed a drug test after the 2016 tournament.
Interviewer Hamish McLachlan awkwardly tiptoed around her 15-month ban for testing positive to meldonium, referring to it as a 'time out'.
Channel 7 has been widely condemned for avoiding talking about tennis star Maria Sharapova's doping ban in a 'shameful' interview
'What benefited you the most during your time out, the mind or the body?' he asked.
'Did you have a break given that you hadn't really put a racquet down for 20 years?'
The 30-year-old responded by making the ban seem like a voluntary break from tennis, and McLachlan obligingly played along.
'I took a couple of months off of not training and not playing, which for me was just so unreal because since the age of four that's really all I did,' she said.
'So maybe, having that period of time, just for my mind, I was able to do other things in my life and study.
'I was able to do some internships and what may people would say was a normal life, which I've never actually gotten to experience.'
Sharapova's only apparent nod to her break being a forced ban was to say she was able to do other things 'even though it wasn't in the way that I wanted it to'.
'It did bring a lot of normalcy into my life and to be able to share things and holidays and to actually be there with my friends and family,' she continued.
'Those are things I miss when I'm on the tour for 10 months out of the year.'
The 30-year-old responded by making the ban seem like a voluntary break from tennis, and McLachlan obligingly played along
Sharapova controversially conducted the Australian Open draw on Wednesday, holding the trophy the winner will receive
The interview was universally panned by tennis writers who were already disgusted by the red carpet treatment the fallen star received at the draw.
Many said it was conducted 'as if she had taken a holiday rather than serving a 15-month doping ban', and was a slap in the face to anti-doping efforts.
'Her "time out" from the sport was referred to as though it was a break of her choosing. It is another shameful episode in which tennis has rolled out the red carpet for a doping offender,' The Times wrote.
'To hell, apparently, with a message of deterrence for any player tempted to indulge in banned substances.'
Tennis fans also panned the interview as a 'sham' and showed young fans that Sharapova's behaviour was rewarded not punished.
'She's not a toddler who did something naughty, and therefore needed a time out! Shameful brownosing,' one wrote.
'Rewarded for failing doping tests... What a sham of a spectacle,' another wrote.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was already forced to defend picking Sharapova for the honour, saying she was the only former winner available
'This is gross. A doper, a freaking doper of all people. This is sad on so many levels,' a third wrote.
'Maria Sharapova now the face of tennis. Do drugs, kids, you'll get rewarded.'
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley was already forced to defend picking Sharapova for the honour, saying she was the only former winner available.
'The challenge we always have this week is there is the (concurrent) Sydney event, the Hobart event and other events. As part of the tradition, we have the former champions,' he said.
'In fairness to Maria, the adjudication has occurred on that (her offence). She's a former champion at the Australian Open. She deserved the opportunity.'
Sharapova practicing on the hardcourt surface before the Australian open begins
This reasoning did not sit well with Daily Mail tennis writer Mike Dickson, who called her selection 'strangely tin-eared call for such an expertly-run event'.
Mr Tiley also denied any players had a problem with playing on Margaret Court Arena after the tennis legend's outspoken comments on gay marriage that caused widespread outrage.
'I've talked to all the players right throughout the year. There's been no pushback from the players,' he said.
'They are here ready to play. We are very proud of our sport, it's one of the most diverse, most inclusive sports there is.
'We are in constant communication with the players and they are ready to play on all three (main) arenas.'
The Australian Open begins on Monday with Sharapova facing off against German World No. 202 Tatjana Maria in the first round
Officials initially banned Sharapova 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 and she was caught in 2016.
She maintained she was unaware it was banned and that she 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.
The Australian Open begins on Monday with Sharapova facing off against German World No. 202 Tatjana Maria in the first round.
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