Serena Williams has voiced her support for Maria Sharapova after her fellow tennis ace admitted to failing a drug test, saying she showed "courage and heart." The admission to testing positive for a recently banned drug called melodonium, which happened during January's Australian Open, has gained praise from a number of female players.
"I think like everyone else said most people were surprised and shocked by Maria," Serena said during a press conference on Tuesday. "But at the same time I think most people were happy that she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at."
Serena added: "I think, as Maria said, she's ready to take full responsibility. I think that showed a lot of courage and a lot of heart, and I think she's always showed courage and heart in everything that she's done and this is no different."
Nike has suspended its long-standing relationship with Maria since her confession during a press conference on Monday evening, and said it was both "saddened and surprised" at the news. The 28-year-old – who is the highest-paid female in sport, earning more than $20million annually – has also lost sponsorship deals with Tag Heuer and Porsche after the revelation.
The sports star said she had been taking melodonium "for the past 10 years" after being given it by "my family doctor" for health reasons, but had known the drug as mildronate. "A few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF (International Tennis Federation), I found out it also has another name of melodonium, which I did not know," she said.
"It is very important for you to understand that, for 10 years, this medicine was not on Wada's banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine for the past 10 years."
"But, on 1 January, the rules changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known."
She added that Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) had sent her an email on 22 December informing her of changes to the banned list, but she had failed to "click" on the link that would have listed the prohibited items. "I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it," she said. "I made a huge mistake."