An A* in suppressing a media leak – that’s what I would give Maria Sharapova for the handling of her doping scandal.
Because if anyone thought her press conference on Monday night was purely spontaneous, it most definitely wasn’t. It was planned to perfection.
You see, Maria’s a savvy woman. She didn’t make her $195million without being so. And she wasn’t going to let the news leak without being in control, and owning the story first.
Assuming she knew the International Tennis Federation were going to announce her failed drug test at 9pm, Maria’s conference half an hour before was timed perfectly.
Perfectly enough to admit the scandal on her own terms and give the press – and public – just enough information to make our own interpretations based on her facts.
We listened to her apologise for not reading her emails, watched her emotional confession with the hang-dog expression and sympathised with her for her medical history.
And so by 8.45pm, she’d pretty much managed to tell her side of the story and garner the weight of the public sympathy.
So much so that when the ITF announced her suspension from world tennishalf an hour later, everyone had already chosen which side of the net they wanted to be on. After all, Maria’s told us all the facts already – we didn’t need to look at their one page statement.
If anything, Maria’s (somehow) manage to position herself as the victim in this. Countless sportspeople have expressed their surprise and sympathy, yet in contrast, the negativity amongst her peers is limited, resigned to a few random tweets.
Bradley Wiggins has been on camera saying he “feels sorry for her” and even arch-enemy Serena has come out in support in Maria, saying she showed a lot of ‘courage and heart’ in speaking out.
If anything, the conversations now turning to how WADA announce additions to the banned list. After all, how many emails have you not read in the past week?
And whilst the sponsors are backing away, its clear Maria isn’t being treated in the same way as Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones or Ben Johnson ever were.
I’d say that was Game, Set, Match.