After a failed drug test catapulted her from the tennis court to news headlines around the world, Maria Sharapova wrote a lengthy letter to her fans on Wednesday.
“I am determined to play tennis again and I hope I will have the chance to do so. I wish I didn’t have to go through this, but I do – and I will,” the 28-year-old Russian said on Facebook.
“I needed to sweat, to push through and grind as I have done most of my life, so I made my way to the gym,” she continued, while detailing her morning routine. “That’s when I realized a bunch of tinted windowed cars were following me. The good old paparazzi, back on the trail.”
Sharapova went on to thank her loyal fans — and 15.4 million Facebook followers — by saying, “In this moment, I am so proud to call you my fans. Within hours of my announcement, you showed me support and loyalty, which I could only expect to hear when someone would be at the top of their profession.
“I wanted to let you know that your wonderful words put a smile on my face. I’d like to play again and hope to have the chance to do so. Your messages give me great encouragement. This message isn’t anything else but to say thank you.”
On Monday, Sharapova admitted to testing positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open in January, saying she had been taking the medicine Mildronate for 10 years. The drug is also known as Meldonium and was added to the banned substance list for 2016.
Although she received an email about the changes to the list from the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, she did not read it, the Grand Slam player and Olympic medalist claimed.
“I made a huge mistake,” she said. “I let my fans down, I let the sport down, which I’ve been playing since the age of 4, that I love so deeply. I know that with this there are consequences. I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”
News of the failed drug test sparked mixed responses in the tennis community, with Jennifer Capriati blasting her former rival in a string of heated tweets.
“I had to lose my career and never opted to cheat no matter what,” Capriati wrote on Twitter. “I had to throw in the towel and suffer.
“I didn’t have the high priced team of drs (sic) that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up,” Capriati added.
“It is terrible news for our sport,” Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who has won 14 major titles, said according to ESPN. “It is terrible because our sport must be clean and look clean.
“The good news is we have a good anti-doping program.”
Sharapova has not yet been served with a punishment.
See her Facebook post below.