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Maria Sharapova (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Maria Sharapova (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The French Open made a shocking announcement last week when they informed Maria Sharapova that she would not be receiving a wild card into the French Open this year. Sharapova returned to tennis in mid-April after serving a 15-month suspension for a doping violation on the use of the drug melodeum.  Because of her absence, Sharapova lost a great deal of ranking points which in turn prevents her from automatically entering most tournaments on tour. So, to enter tournaments, especially grand slams, Sharapova, until she accumulates enough ranking points, must either play qualifying rounds or rely on individual tournaments to give her a wild card, which would allow her to enter the tournament.

Now it is completely up to the tournament on who it decides to give its wildcard to. Most tournaments give wild cards to either a citizen from the country or a top ranked player. Tournaments have the special ability to use wild cards on former champions. For that reason, tournaments such as Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome happily gave out Sharapova a wild card. These decisions were met with a lot of controversy. Most stemming from the question do you reward a player who is returning from a doping suspension?

Players on both the women’s and men’s tour feel that the answer to that question is no. Andy Murray, Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwańska expressed their concerns for giving a wild card to a player returning from a wild card. They believed for the most part it was unfair to other who might need a wild card. Though few said Maria in their answers, Eugenie Bouchard made her thoughts very clear on what she thought of Sharapova. She stated in an interview with reporters, “She’s a cheater and I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again. It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way and are true.” The two would eventually face each other weeks after Genie making those comments, with Bouchard winning in a tight three set match.

Their opinions aside, it is a bit counterintuitive to help a player who only has obstacles because of their punishment. Sharapova’s loss of ranking points is due to her absence, which was caused by the suspension. It is therefore only logical that she will have issues qualifying for tournaments. To reward Sharapova with automatic entry into a tournament, undercuts her suspension.

Another question asked is whether tournaments would give this much help to other less popular players returning from a doping suspension. The answer is probably not. The average tennis player, despite his or her skills, is not as popular as Sharapova, so their ability to generate money for tournaments is not the same.  But again, the question the tennis community must ask is is that fair. This issue, in part, why most players on tour are so upset.

The other side of the argument is that tournaments are within their rights for choosing to give a wild card to Sharapova. Tournaments obviously want to bring in crowds and generate money and being that Maria Sharapova is a very popular player on tour, why shouldn’t they use their wild card on her? WTA CEO stated, “Wildcards are offered at tournament’s sole discretion. I fully support the players that received wildcards and wish them the very best of luck…” Simon went on to further reason that Sharapova served her time and therefore is not obligated to receive any additional punishment.

Notable commentators/former players also feel that Sharapova has done her time so there is no need to further punish her. Tennis Channel commentator Justin Gimelstob expressed his “disappointment” in Sharapova not receiving a wildcard.  Gimelstob reminded viewers that although Sharapova was found of doping it was determined by WADA (World, Anti-Doping, Agency) that it was purely of negligence and that Sharapova did not do it intentionally (Though many fans question that claim). So, although Sharapova is guilty of doping she should be given some leeway because she didn’t do it to gain any unfair advantages.

There is a really a tough predicament for any tournament to be in. Tournament bodies should ask themselves if they are willing to put the success of their tournament at risk to stand behind their morals. For the French Open, they decided that is exactly what they would do. Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation, stated via Facebook, “If there can be a wildcard for return from injuries then there cannot be a wildcard for return of doping.” Giudicelli also emphasized that it was his mission “protect the game” and “protect the high standards”.

Some say this is no shocker because of the controversy caused by Lance Armstrong’s admittance of his performance enhancing drugs during his dominant run at the Tour de France. Many believed that compromise could have been the French Open giving Sharapova a wild card into the qualifying rounds but apparently, they didn’t feel that was appropriate as well.

Though there is no right or wrong answer, the logic should be that a player returning from a doping suspension should do everything on their own to return to the top. If that means playing qualifying rounds or playing challengers or future tournaments to earn back their ranking, so be it. There is no price on integrity and honesty and those are the foundational traits of the game of tennis. No player is above the law and if they do the crime, whether intentionally or negligently, they must unfortunately face the time and the consequences that come with.

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Ricardo is the lead Tennis Analyst here at
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