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Tennis Star Maria Sharapova Receives 2 Year Suspension For Doping

Sharapova immediately responded by saying she would appeal the decision to sport’s highest court.

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Sports
3 min read
Maria Sharapova was suspended from tennis for two years on Wednesday for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open. (Photo: AP)

Maria Sharapova was suspended from tennis for two years on Wednesday for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open, and immediately responded by saying she would appeal the decision to the sport’s highest court.

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The ruling by an independent three-person panel appointed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said Sharapova did not intend to cheat, but that she bore “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for the positive test.

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.
Maria Sharapova

The five-time Grand Slam champion was provisionally suspended by the ITF in early March, when she announced at a news conference in Los Angeles that she failed a doping test in January.

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Sharapova said then she was not aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency had barred athletes from using meldonium, also known as mildronate, as of 1 January.

Her lawyer, John Haggerty, said Sharapova took the substance after that date.

Lawyers representing the ITF argued their side, while Haggerty argued hers. He said that she spoke at the hearing.

In addition to testing positive at the Australian Open, the ITF said she also failed a test for meldonium in an out-of-competition control in Moscow on 2 February.

Sharapova said she first was prescribed the Latvian-made drug, typically used for heart conditions, for medical reasons in 2006.

She could have been barred from competing for up to four years.

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 ban throws into doubt the on-court future of Sharapova, the 29-year-old Russian who is one of the most well-known and – thanks to a wide array of endorsements –highest-earning athletes in the world.

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Maria Sharapova plays a forehand in the first round of the US Open in 2014. (Photo: Reuters) 
Maria Sharapova plays a forehand in the first round of the US Open in 2014. (Photo: Reuters) 
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She is a former top-ranked player who is one of 10 women in tennis history with a career Grand Slam – at least one title from each of the sport’s four most important tournaments. So much came so easily for her at the start: Wimbledon champion in 2004 at age 17; No. 1 in the rankings at 18; U.S. Open champion at 19; Australian Open champion at 20.

Sharapova hasn’t played since a quarterfinal loss to Serena Williams at this year’s Australian Open, and she is ranked 26th this week.

Sharapova and the Russian team had hoped she would be cleared in time to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, but after the ruling Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev told the Tass news agency that Ekaterina Makarova would replace her.

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Meldonium increases blood flow, which improves exercise capacity by carrying more oxygen to the muscles.

In April, citing a lack of scientific evidence about how long the drug remains in a person’s system, WADA said that provisional suspensions may be lifted if it is determined that an athlete took meldonium before it went on the list of banned substances.

About 200 athletes tested positive for meldonium this year from various sports and countries – many, like Sharapova, were Russian – and some said the drug stayed in their systems for months even though they stopped using it in 2015.

It is important at all times for players to be aware of the rules and to follow them, In this case, Maria has taken responsibility for her mistake from the outset. The WTA will continue to follow this closely and we hope it will be resolved as soon as possible.
Steve Simon, CEO, WTA

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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