Sharapova’s wild card entry into the Porsche Grand Prix has raised many a question about the ethics and morality of the action of the tournament directors by seasoned players such as Radwanska, Wozniacki, and Halep. Their gripe, they claim, is not with Sharapova being allowed to play but with her being awarded wild cards and treated like the star that she was prior to her doping ban.
So has Sharapova really done her time and therefore be treated like the star player that she was prior to the incident? I believe it is purely a matter of perspective of the various parties involved.
Sharapova from the very start of this controversy has broadly maintained that she is the one who has been wronged by the ban, and having followed her closely, ever since she burst into the scenes by beating Serena at Wimbledon, it would be silly to expect any less from her. From her very early days it has always been about her v/s them, (“them” being those who do not want her to win) and “them” would never give Maria a fair shot or trial, in this case, and she’d have to fight against all odds to prevail. Therefore she must win at any cost. To Sharapova this whole incident is just another battle that she must fight and show to the world that she is a winner. It has never been about right and wrong, it is always about winning because winning blurs the boundary between right and wrong, and I am quite certain that she will win this too. She could do it the hard way and not take wild cards but that route may take longer and she is not in her early twenties to risk delays therefore Sharapova will avoid that option. I may not agree with her but I definitely get her perspective.
Perspective of the other players
Those who believe that they have done it the real hard way and faced the daily grind to make their presence felt in the tour and even those who continue to struggle to realize their dream will certainly not appreciate Sharapova being treated like a queen immediately upon her return from the doping ban. Many would invariably and illogically debate, in their minds, if they too should have taken PEDs to get results and hopefully become stars. After all, the risk of being caught isn’t as bad as they had imagined. It is easy to understand why these players would feel cheated and loose some faith in the system.
The tournament exists to make money by providing value to its customers and if Sharapova is a star then she is more than likely to provide that value and therefore they’ll willingly embrace her even if she was guilty of far bigger sins. A tournament is trying to make its money by being a part of the bigger structure called the WTA and they may or may not have a longer term perspective on the tour and their own reputation within it.
A fan’s view will primarily be guided by whether he or she is a fan of the player that was caught doping or her opponent’s; and that’s exactly what makes a fan!
The ITF and the WTA
The ITF governs and promotes tennis whereas WTA exists to promote the growth of women’s professional tennis across the globe. I believe the perspective of these two bodies and the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), if it is still active, is of utmost importance and truly dictates the perception and direction of women’s professional tennis. Does the WTA want the professional women’s tour to have strict high standards and rules or loosely bound directions which can be manipulated based on the star value of a player or whims of a tournament director? Does the WTA and ITF want its player’s to even remotely harbor the thought that they can get away with it or the consequences will not be so dire as long as they can avoid getting caught until they have become stars? Do ethics prevail over business in the short term, or vice-versa? Based on intellectually honest answers to these questions, these two bodies can then decide whether to promote a fallen star or lay down strict and hard rules about the return of players banned for doping or other such offenses.
Therefore, in the very end only the ITF’s and WTA’s perspective affects the health of our sport. I hope they are listening.