One Cannot Plead Ignorance Because of Athletic Prowess

By Aaron Rispoli

Assistant Sports Editor

At age 28, Maria Sharapova is one of the most decorated players of her generation, currently ranked 7th in the world. Ben Simmons, a true freshman at Louisiana State University by way of Austria is, according to popular sentiment, the best player college basketball has to offer. Despite the experience that contrasts their respective careers, both athletes have exemplified what happens when athletic prowess blights one’s ability to be anything more than an athlete.

Sharapova admitted to using the performance enhancing drug, Meldonium. The five time grand-slam winner plead ignorance for the positive drug test, USA Today reported. Evidently, Sharapova “failed to click on a link sent to her on December 22nd”; the email detailed that the World Anti-Doping Agency planned to ban Meldonium on January 1st, 2016. She will most certainly face a suspension, rendering her ineligible to compete for a substantial amount of time.

Similarly, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Ben Simmons is ineligible for the highly coveted Wooden award, given to the best college basketball player. One small caveat exists, however: you must have at least a 2.0 GPA to be considered for the award.

Simmons is averaging 19.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season and has been as good as advertised for the Tigers. His academics, though, have fallen short. Short of a 2.0, the Mendoza line of academia, the bare minimum one receives for warming a seat at an institution.

But Simmons is a basketball player, you may say. He is attending college because he is obligated to. If the NBA did not require Simmons to be there, he would be in the NBA right this instant—impervious to the demands that are inherent to student-athletes.

Simmons has mistakenly made the assumption that his athletic prowess can excuse him for his shortcomings in the classroom.

Sharapova has also exemplified what is looks like to use one’s prominence as a reason to be held less culpable than you or I would be. “I wish I didn’t have to go through this”, Sharapova posted to her Facebook on Wednesday afternoon. “But I do – and I will.”

Sharapova wrote as if her failed drug test was tantamount to a cancer diagnosis. No, Ms. Sharapova—despite your enthralling beauty and exemplary athletic ability, you are not to be admired for cheating nor are you eligible to be consoled for it.  

In all likelihood, Sharapova will return to prominence and Simmons will be drafted within the first round. Athletics is a system that rewards those who are less than punctilious in all they do outside of their sport. What needs to be understood is that athletic prowess is not some indissoluble attribute. It is integrity and integrity alone that remains impervious to time.

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