Maria Sharapova banned from tennis for 2 years
Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova has been banned from tennis for two years, after she admitted earlier this year that she had failed a drug test for banned substance meldonium following the Australian Open in January 2016.
Meldonium, which is used for patients with heart disease, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances on the 1st of January this year, although Sharapova said her team were unaware at the time that it had been banned.
Sharapova could have faced a maximum of four years for the ban – the standard suspension period for an athlete found using a performance-enhancing drug, while experts had expected the Russian ace to face an 18-month ban.
She will be appealing the ban, which has been backdated to the 2016 Australian Open, effectively reducing it to 18 months. Under the ban as it stands, Sharapova will return to action on the 26th of January, 2018.
Sharapova lost associations with major sponsors in the immediate wake of her admission, with Nike and luxury watchmakers Tag Heuer both choosing to cut ties with the 5-time Grand Slam winner.
It had been alleged that the Russian ignored as many as five warning emails from WADA, claims that Sharapova addressed on her official Facebook page at the time.
In her statement, Sharapova said she “.. (made) no excuses for not knowing about the ban. I already told you about the December 22, 2015 email I received. Its subject line was “Main Changes to the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme for 2016.” I should have paid more attention to it.”
The 29-year-old has avered that her meldonium use has been on the advice of her doctors.
Meldonium, it has been claimed, improves athletes’ stamina and endurance on the field.
Sharapova has released a statement to her Facebook page following the ban.
“Today with their decision of a two year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional. The tribunal found that I did not seek treatment from my doctor for the purpose of obtaining a performance enhancing substance.
The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not. You need to know that the ITF asked the tribunal to suspend me for four years – the required suspension for an intentional violation -- and the tribunal rejected the ITF’s position.
While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world. I have read your letters. I have read your social media posts and your love and support has gotten me through these tough days. I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible.
P.S. My lawyer prepared a short summary of how the ITF process works so I thought I would pass it along to my fans so you too can be aware of what the ITF rules call for