Thursday 8 December 2016

Sharapova vows to fight 'unfairly harsh' two-year suspension over doping

Emily Barton

Published 09/06/2016 | 02:30

Appeal: Maria Sharapova. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Reuters
Appeal: Maria Sharapova. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Reuters

The International Tennis Federation has announced Maria Sharapova has been given a two-year suspension - effective from January 26, 2016 - for committing an anti-doping violation.

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An ITF statement said: "An Independent Tribunal appointed under Article 8.1 of the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has found that Maria Sharapova committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme and as a consequence has disqualified the affected results and imposed a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on 26 January 2016."

Sharapova announced in March she had tested positive for meldonium, insisting she had been prescribed the drug since 2006 for "several health issues", including irregular heart test results and a family history of diabetes.

The 29-year-old also claimed she was unaware meldonium, which boosts blood-flow and can improve endurance, had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list from January 1 this year. Sharapova described the two-year suspension as "unfairly harsh" and says she will lodge an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension," Sharapova wrote on Facebook.

"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."

The five-time Grand Slam winner said: "With their decision of a two-year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional.

"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."

The ITF said Sharapova tested positive for meldonium in an out-of competition test on February 2, as well as following her Australian Open quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams on January 26.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said in April that scientists were unsure how long meldonium stayed in the system, and suggested athletes who tested positive before March 1 could avoid bans, provided they had stopped taking it before January 1.

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.

Irish Independent

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