Murray says Sharapova scandal sends message to drugs cheats

Indian Wells (United States) (AFP) - Andy Murray says Maria Sharapova should face the music for testing positive for a banned drug and that snaring the Russian sports icon sends a strong message to would be drugs cheats.

The world number two Murray applauded doping officials on Thursday for catching one of tennis' most high-profile stars.

"The positive thing about what has happened to Maria is she is one of the biggest female athletes on the planet," Murray said on Thursday at the Indian Wells tournament.

"If you take performance-enhancing drugs and you fail a drug test then you should be suspended."

Former world number one Sharapova announced Monday that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January.

Sharapova tested positive for Meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list this year.

Murray criticized everyone from Sharapova, to the tennis federation, to his racquet sponsor Head who also sponsors Sharapova.

"This is happening on a regular basis in sports. "I wouldn't say it was shocking," Murray said.

"I read that 55 athletes have failed that test since January 1. You don't expect high level athletes in all those sports to have heart conditions."

World number one Serena Williams said on Thursday she doesn't want the Sharapova scandal to tarnish the image of the sport.

"It is disappointing for all the players involved but it doesn't reflect on the game," Williams said.

Williams said she had never heard of Meldonium until Sharapova's case.

"I am studying medicine but I have never heard of it. Maybe I am not studying hard enough," she said.

Murray's racquet sponsor Head said it plans to continue to use the 28-year-old Sharapova as a spokesperson despite the five-time Grand Slam winner's positive test.

Murray is not happy with the decision especially after Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer, US sportswear giant Nike and German luxury carmaker Porsche suspended links with the Russian ace.

"It is not something I believe in. I personally wouldn't respond like that," Murray said.

He said the high number of athletes testing positive for Meldonium since January shows that many athletes are getting phoney prescriptions for legal PEDs.

"If you take a prescription drugs that you don't need but just because it is legal is wrong. You are just doing it for the performance-enhancing benefits," Murray said.

Asked if he was playing against players who are cheating he said, "I hope not, but it is impossible to say."

Murray said he was surprised that the International Tennis Federation and the WTA Tour allowed Sharapova to make the announcement of the positive test herself.

"I do find it strange that it was up to the player to disclose it. It would be better if it was up to the authorities to disclose it."

Murray said he has been drug tested just twice in the first three months of 2016 "which is clearly not enough."