Maria Sharapova could potentially avoid ban over Meldonium as her lawyer criticises WADA

"It’s clear Wada did not handle this properly last year and they're trying to make up for it now"

Maria Sharapova could potentially avoid ban over Meldonium as her lawyer criticises WADA

Image: Damian Dovarganes / AP/Press Association Images

Maria Sharapova's lawyer has hit out at WADA for how "poorly" they handled the decision to add Meldonium to the list of banned substances.

The tennis player has been given a possible opening to avoid a potentially career-ending ban after the anti-doping watchdog appeared to revise their stance in relation to the controversial drug that is used to treat heart defects.

In a statement today, WADA conceded that "there is a lack of clear scientific information" about how long the drug stays in the human system, confirming that provisional suspensions can be lifted if it is determined that an athlete took the drug before it was placed on the list of banned substances on January 1st of this year.

"In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete," they said in a statement.

Provisional tests show that Meldonium can "take weeks or months" to be excreted from the body which has created the possibility for the drug to still be present even after an athlete had stopped taking it last year.

WADA says it has recorded 172 failed tests for Meldonium since it was banned on January 1st, but insists that the "onus remains on athletes to explain how the substance was in his or her body".

Sharapova's lawyer John Haggerty says that today's revelation "is proof of how poorly they handled issues relating to Meldonium in 2015. Given the fact that scores of athletes have tested positive for taking what previously was a legal product, it’s clear Wada did not handle this properly last year and they're trying to make up for it now."

He also added that "notice should have been widely distributed in 2015, when it would have made a difference in the lives of many athletes".