Maria Sharapova is not the first athlete to have her career hang in the balance due to a suspension, but she is one of the most prolific.
Sharapova was recently suspended by the International Tennis Federation for two years after testing positive for Meldonium, a drug that was added to the banned substance list January 1st of this year. The tennis star is claiming that she knew the substance by a different name, Mildronate, and was therefore not aware of the rule change. Sharapova also stated that she had been taking the drug since 2006 for health issues which included a magnesium deficiency combined with a family history of diabetes.
This decision has been nothing short of controversial, as Sharapova is one of the biggest stars the sport of tennis has ever seen. Her possible two-year suspension could be crippling to her illustrious career, and she will do everything in her power to ensure that does not happen. She has been a pro since she was 14, and after 15 years of extremely competitive tennis, a long suspension this late in her career could be something she might not be able to recover from.
There is no surprise that Maria Sharapova will appeal the suspension, and after about a month of deliberation by the ITF, a decision should be made by July 18th. Sharapova will miss Wimbledon, a tennis tournament with rich history that she won at the age of 17, but if the decision goes her way she could be playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics in August.
Here are a few other athletes that put their careers in serious jeopardy or ended them completely due to questionable decisions that led to suspension. If Sharapova’s suspension is upheld she will be synonymous with these athletes for a long time to come.
Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns
Known for their perennial losing streaks and troubles at quarterback, the Cleveland Browns finally had a game changing player at wide-out in Josh Gordon. He burst on to the scene as one of the best offensive players in the game after a breakout season in 2013 where he was voted to the Pro Bowl.
That was the end of the fairy tale for Josh Gordon and the Cleveland Browns. The following season Gordon was suspended for driving while impaired. Gordon was caught with marijuana and only played in five games during the 2014 season for the Browns. He was primed to make a comeback, but failed another drug test and was suspended for the entirety of the 2015 season. His NFL career is now in limbo, and the Browns are left wondering what could have been. This suspension is similar to Sharapova’s because just like Gordon, Sharapova is losing some prime years of her career if it is upheld.
Alex Rodriguez, Third Baseman, New York Yankees
This suspension has it all. One of baseball’s most renown franchises, and one of its most popular players of all time. Baseball in the 21st century has been marred by steroid scandals. Legends like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro all have stains on their careers due to being wrapped up in the steroid accusations, and Alex Rodriguez could not remain clean either. A-Rod’s reputation took one of the biggest hits of all-time in 2009 when a story came out that he took steroids in 2003 during his career as a Texas Ranger. He tried to rebound from that, but in 2014, Rodriguez was suspended for 162 games, an entire MLB season, for using Human Growth Hormones. HGH was the most popular steroid of choice over the past decade in the MLB and using it cost A-Rod more than just money.
Sharapova and Rodriguez are some of the most high-profile athletes that their respective sports have ever seen, and for them to deal with such a hit to their reputations will link them together forever.
Lance Armstrong, Cyclist
One of the hardest doping scandals to swallow in American sports history is the saga of Lance Armstrong. From cancer survivor to the best cyclist the world had ever seen and finally a pariah that lied to the American people, Armstrong’s career is one for the history books instead of the record books. Winning the Tour De France seven times from 1999 to 2005, Armstrong could do no wrong. He beat cancer prior to those titles and instantly became an American hero for his accomplishments in life and in sport.
He was stripped of his titles in 2012, and in 2013 admitted to the world during an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had a long history of doping and cheating the sport. His life has parallels to Sharapova due to the fact that Armstrong’s sponsors all left him. Sharapova lost sponsorships from TAG Heuer and Porsche as well as Nike distancing itself from the athlete after the story broke about her.