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Maria Sharapova has been an international role model to our young and quickly maturing children and adolescents. She has transcended the scope of a typical modern athlete. Ms. Sharapova has extended herself into an epitome of class and a paragon for the millennium generation in the Russian Federation as well as the world.
Of course, this is why the world has been so surprised by Ms. Sharapova’s violation of the anti-doping policies of the International Tennis Federation. The most vital issue, now, though is not Maria Sharapova. The paramount matter now is the effect on those millions of idealizing and rapidly maturing fans.
These evolving irreproachable minds have, imbedded in them, an image of Ms. Sharapova that goes beyond the reality and imperfection of a human being. Their conception is more of an ideal. The younger the fan is the more Ms. Sharapova is a flawless guide to right and wrong.
Therefore, it is my belief that the duration of suspension for Maria Sharapova is very important. Ms. Sharapova is an example to all these young minds now even more than before. Most salient, though, is the impression these minds have, if any, when Ms. Sharapova returns.
Young and impressionable minds mature and evolve at an exponentially rapid rate these days. Images and influences rush through constantly but lasting ideals still become imbedded. Part of the lesson in maturing for youths is that humans are not perfect but how we handle our imperfections and errors is part of the kind of adult we become. Therefore, the manner in which this matter is handled is extraordinarily fragile and critical.
Maria Sharapova has taken full responsibility for her actions. This is an act of maturity that all her fans have benefited in seeing. She will be punished for her violations and that, too, is crucial for all youth to understand; actions have their consequences.
What remains now, in these young fans’ eyes, is not the appeal process or whatever logistical events will follow. What remains now in these impressionable minds is the resolution. For many the resolution will only be what has happened now; Maria Sharapova is out of professional tennis. The reason for this incomplete conclusion is that if the suspension stands at two (2) years then many of these young people may not even notice when Maria Sharapova returns. Their lives may be turbo-boosted so far in two years that the news of Ms. Sharapova’s return may be only a shadow in the background. Instead, it should be a completion of a crucial lesson. Things are forgotten very quickly in the modern age but a deep unconscious moral indentation may last forever.
They may not witness the strength and honor in overcoming one’s own mistakes. This is an imperative lesson for all of us let alone our growing youth. For this reason, I believe that Maria Sharapova’s two year suspension is excessive and, alternatively, one year would benefit those that are most important: the admiring, and rapidly growing, young fans.
The youth need to behold and learn that obstacles, even of our own doing, in life can be overcome with dedication and fortitude.
Maria Sharapova had been an exemplary role model for our blossoming young generation. I am confident that Ms. Sharapova will return with courage and stay far from any further deceit, and be a valuable example, again. We are all aware of her exceptional dedication and fortitude much like we are all aware of how all humans make mistakes. It is how we resolve our mistakes and learn from them that allows us all to evolve. Therefore, I ask that the International Tennis Federation consider lessening Ms. Sharapova’s suspension to one (1) year so to ensure that our growing youth experience the full evolution and conclusion of that lesson.
Leon E. Popovitz, MD is a former team physician for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. He is an Orthopedic Surgeon and co-founder of New York Bone and Joint Specialists.