Maria Sharapova banned for two years for failed drugs test but will appeal

Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years by the
International Tennis Federation for using a prohibited
The Russian was provisionally banned in March after testing
positive for meldonium at January’s Australian Open.
The heart disease drug, which 29-year-old Sharapova says
she has been taking since 2006 for health issues, became a
banned substance on 1 January 2016.
The five-time Grand Slam winner said she “cannot accept”
the “unfairly harsh” ban – and will appeal.
Sharapova will now challenge the suspension, which is
backdated to 26 January 2016, at the Court of Arbitration for
Sport (Cas)
In a statement, she said the tribunal concluded her offence
was “unintentional” and that she had not tried to use a
“performance enhancing substance”.
But she claimed the ITF had asked the tribunal for a four-
year ban, adding that it “spent tremendous amounts of time
and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the
anti-doping rules”.
The tribunal ruling said Sharapova also tested positive for
meldonium in an out-of competition test on 2 February, as
well as in the aftermath of her Australian Open quarter-final
defeat by Serena Williams on 26 January. It treated both
results as a single anti-doping violation.
The London 2012 Olympic silver medallist added: “I have
missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans…
your love and support has gotten me through these tough
“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.”
What is meldonium?
Watch: How to avoid failing a drugs test
27 Russians test positive for meldonium
Sharapova became the first Russian to win Wimbledon as a
17-year-old in 2004, added the US Open in 2006 and the
Australian Open in 2008, before completing a career Grand
Slam with the French Open title in 2012.
She won the French again in 2014 and was Forbes’ highest-
earning female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years
until Serena Williams claimed top spot this year.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said in April that
scientists were unsure how long meldonium stayed in the
system, and suggested athletes who tested positive before 1
March could avoid bans, provided they had stopped taking it
before 1 January.
However, Sharapova had already admitted she continued
taking the substance past that date, saying she was unaware
it had been added to the banned list as she knew it by
another name – mildronate.
Thought to improve stamina and endurance
Designed to treat ischemia and used by diabetes suffers
Banned by Wada since 1 January 2016
Featured on Wada’s watch list in 2015
In reaching its verdict, the ITF recognised Sharapova had not
intentionally broken anti-doping rules, as she did not know
that mildronate contained a banned substance from January
of this year.
But the federation said the Russian was “the sole author of
her own misfortune”, as she had “failed to take any steps to
check whether continued use of the medicine was
Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki called
Sharapova’s case a “sad situation”.
“Tennis has a really strong anti-drug policy in place and it
helps the sport really keep clean,” the 25-year-old told BBC
“It’s always a sad situation when someone is getting banned
or you have heard they have failed a drug test – not only for
Maria but for tennis in general.
“The ITF is doing its best to make sure nobody tries to go
that route of taking any enhancing drugs, it’s unfortunate for
anyone who did that unintentionally as well.”
Wada will now “review the decision, including its reasoning”.
A statement said: “As with all decisions made by anti-doping
organisations, Wada will review the decision, including its
reasoning, and will subsequently decide whether or not to
use its independent right of appeal to the Court of
Arbitration for Sport.”