When athletes offer a frank, unfiltered opinion these days, they do so at their own risk.
So credit to players like Roberta Vinci, Agnieszka Radwanska and, today, Eugenie Bouchard for risking the wrath of the Sharapova legions to speak out about how they feel about her return.
Bouchard, especially, might have minced words, knowing the serious slump she’s in at the moment is easy pickings for major backlash. But the 23-year-old has looked up to Sharapova since she was a little girl – wanted to be her, in all of the superficial ways in which Sharapova is famous.
So, she had her say in Istanbul.
Bouchard’s statement was stronger than most of the others out there, most of whom merely answered a question about whether Sharapova deserved wild cards as she returns from a 15-month doping suspension.
It’s naive in many ways. Not all doping violations are equal; Sharapova hadn’t exactly been caught taking stanazolol for a decade. So to lump every single circumstance under that banner is not thinking it through. But a lot of people out there are going to agree with her.
Interview released for maximum impact
The interview clearly was done before the start of the tournament. So it doesn’t appear Bouchard was just looking for some extra attention on a day all was focused on Sharapova.
Of course the TV network waited for today, as Sharapova returns to action, to post it (it’s the final question).
Even the title on that YouTube video is grist for the mill, because that came nearly three years ago.
Here’s what Bouchard said.
“I don’t think that’s right. She’s a cheater and so, to me, I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again. It’s so unfair to all the the others players who do it the right way and are true. I just think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: cheat, and we’ll welcome you back with open arms.
“I don’t think that’s right, and definitely not someone I can say I look up to any more, because it’s definitely ruined it for me a little bit.”
The rest of the interview is so banal as to be nap-inducing. So that strong stand definitely came out of nowhere, unsolicited.
Bouchard has voiced this opinion before.
When Sharapova first announced she had taken meldonium and failed a doping test, just at the start of Indian Wells last year, Bouchard said much the same thing.