A rapidly-expanding tennis scandal is unfolding as Maria Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
Sharapova has been suspended effective March 12th and is rapidly losing sponsors.
The wrinkle is, the drug she was taking was literally 100% legal on December 31, 2015. That date, for those who are mathematically inclined, is barely two months ago. The drug is popular in Eastern Europe (it's made in Latvia, and Russian athletes have started being cut off the meldonium-machine), and has been banned not because it's a known powerful substance to improve athletic performance but instead because it's a mild performance enhancer that was taking it due to a combination of irregular heartbeat and risk factors for diabetes which may give her some leniancy when the subject of the length of her suspension comes up.
What this really starts speaking to in the age where men can pretend to be women and compete in the Olympics is why there's such a bureaucracy and rigmarole involved† in deciding basically on a year-to-year basis what is and is not a banned substance. If you have a couple spare hours, go read the USDA Athlete's Guide to WADA Prohibited Substances or go through the entire World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list yourself(pdf). A word of caution, clear some space in your day.
Understandably, the social-justice ninnies at The Guardian are going the exact opposite in this one. Bryan Armen Graham literally claims that athletes shouldn't take any medication that could benefit them as human beings.
Far less binary are the ethical issues the episode raises. If you take a medicine or supplement that isn’t strictly banned but which makes you feel better on court and in general, is it wrong?Graham then claims "white privilege" for the lack of a lynch mob coming after Sharapova, since he's convinced that the Williams sisters -- who win more titles than Maria but look less like one of the world's most beautiful people and more like giant shaved apes -- would have been drummed out of the sport by now‡.
What idiots like Graham don't quite get is that the "entirety of her achievements" aren't at risk as he claims. She needed medicine, she took medicine, some overreacting idiots on a committee decided the medicine wasn't good for the sport anymore, and then the windows of her use and the prohibition overlapped by the tiniest of amounts. Even if she receives a ban (2 years, at most), there's no moral authority imaginable that could justify stripping her of her existing titles (as one of my occasional tennis opponents enthusiastically texted me about on Wednesday). None of those titles were won using banned substances. No titles have been won with a banned substance. Whether or not you agree with the WADA's methods or existence, quite clearly their system worked. (The only other singles tournament so far in 2016 was the Qatar Total Open which ironically she skipped due to an injury).
While we all wait for Maria Sharapova to be returned to the sport let's take this opportunity to start evaluating the criteria used by WADA to make this sudden and unilateral decision and whether or not it makes any sense in this new climate of letting women with dicks onto the track to demonize Sharapova for the "crime" of taking a substance that improves her medical status.
† Okay we know why there's a bureaucracy involved. As a quasi-NGO organization, the World Anti-Doping Agency will keep expanding in scope and power and administration without any market forces reigning it in. No "doping agency" will ever find a need for fewer things to regulate and fewer staff to administer.