Saturday 24 February 2018

Tennis' doping history suggests Sharapova might not serve long ban despite offence

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

Eleanor Cooks and Will Slattery

Over the last ten years, a number of tennis stars have had doping bans reduced on appeal or quashed entirely.

In the aftermath of Maria Sharapova's admission that she tested positive for a banned substance during the recent Australian Open, many fans are wondering just how long the Russian may be out of the sport for.

Deliberately ingesting a prohibited substance is cause for a four-year ban, while a former British anti-doping chief has said that a more lenient punishment, possibly two years, could be handed down if Sharapova can prove that she needed the drug to treat a medical condition, which was her defence despite the substance being added to the banned list on January 1st this year.

Sharapova isn't the first high-profile tennis player to test commit a doping offence. Here are seven other examples, some of which are connected by an interesting trend.


The Croatian was given a nine-month ban in 2013 after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said traces of banned stimulant nikethamide were found in a sample he gave at a tournament in Munich. Cilic claimed the failed test was a result of taking over-the-counter glucose tablets, but argued only a by-product of the banned substance had been found. He took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and the ban was reduced to four months. Cilic won his first grand slam title at the US Open the following year.


Another recent and controversial case. Troicki refused to take a blood test at a tournament in Monte Carlo in 2013, claiming he was feeling unwell and had a phobia of needles. He was banned for 18 months, reduced to 12 on an appeal to CAS. Troicki vociferously maintained his innocence, claiming he had been told by the doping control officer he could take the test the following day. Novak Djokovic spoke out in impassioned defence of his friend, calling it an injustice and claiming he had lost faith in the system.


Gasquet tested positive for cocaine in 2009 and was banned for 12 months by the ITF. He also took his case to CAS and successfully argued that he had ingested the substance inadvertently after kissing a woman in a nightclub. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.


Agassi made the shocking revelation in his post-retirement autobiography that he failed a test in 1997 after taking crystal meth and then lied to tennis authorities to escape punishment. He told the ATP in a letter he had taken the drug accidentally. The governing body believed him and the failed test remained a secret for the rest of Agassi's playing career.


The former British number one was among a number of players to test positive for the steroid nandrolone in 2003. He was cleared of wrongdoing after a tribunal ruled he, along with the other players, had taken the drug inadvertently in contaminated pills handed out by ATP trainers.


Having initially retired in 2003 at the age of 22, Hingis returned to tennis two years later only for her comeback to be abruptly ended in 2007 by a positive test for a metabolite of cocaine at Wimbledon. She was suspended from tennis for two years but made another comeback in 2013 and is now ranked number one in the world in doubles.


Probably tennis' most notorious doping offender. In March 2010, the American pleaded guilty to importing human growth hormone into Australia and was suspended for two years. The ban was later reduced to one year after the ITF said he had fully cooperated with its investigations. Odesnik became something of a pariah and was banned for 15 years in March last year after a second offence, this time testing positive for a number of banned substances, including steroids.

Press Association

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