Tennis is bracing itself for the Maria Sharapova verdict this week, with one source close to the tribunal predicting a backdated ban of a year to 18 months.
Given a history of leniency in the sport it might even be less, but it seems that the 29-year-old Russian’s expensively-assembled legal team should secure her a return to the tour next year.
Yet whatever happens, there has already been substantial fallout from the Sharapova Meldonium episode, resulting in lawsuits, special measures at Wimbledon, rule changes, wavering sponsors, fear and retribution.
And to think that, when she called a press conference in Los Angeles on March 7, so many of us believed it might be to launch a commercial venture. Or, at the more dramatic end of expectations, to announce retirement plans.
Nearly three months on the former world number one is expected to learn her fate this coming week, but anyone hoping for closure on this episode is likely to be disappointed.
Ask Rafael Nadal, now contending with the misery of a left wrist injury, about the collateral damage. The Spaniard has long since been infuriated that his name comes up whenever the doping in tennis has been raised.
He has always virulently denied ever being involved in anything untoward, while being reluctant to give oxygen to the subject with legal recourse.
But he has indirectly suffered, because without this affair ex French government minister Roselyne Bachelot would never have been on French television casually accusing him of sitting out a ‘silent ban’ when injured. He is now suing her in the French courts.
Not everything that has sprung from the Russian’s confession has been negative. Until now tennis has taken a softer approach than most sports in declining to name anyone who tests positive until their case has been fully heard and judged by an independent tribunal (Sharapova took matters into her own hands, as is her right).
That policy is likely to change this summer, with the tennis anti-doping programme making positive tests public. So there will be no possibility of any more ‘silent bans’ – for instance what happened with former US Open champion Marin Cilic, disappearing from the circuit for months in 2013 with a presumed knee injury.
But the Sharapova episode only compounded what was already a difficult year for tennis, coming on the back of allegations that it had once gone soft on match-fixing, now subject of an independent review that will report in 2017.

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