Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium.
Sharapova failed a doping test during the Australian Open and her ban is back-dated to January 26, the date of her quarter-final defeat against top-seed Serena Williams, although she has already stated an appeal will be made to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The 29-year-old admitted taking Mildronate, another name for meldonium, for the last 10 years and stated she had been unaware that it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Association’s banned list at the start of 2016.
But a statement from Sharapova said the tribunal had found she had not intended to deceive anyone by continuing to use meldonium, with the punishment lower than it could have been, although that will not stop her appealing. Should the appeal fail, Sharapova will be banned until January 25, 2018.
Sharapova’s statement read:
“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.