According to the ITF, Maria Sharapova is guilty of trying to beat the system.
Sharapova today was banned from tennis for TWO YEARS as a result of failing a doping test at the Australian Open for the drug meldonium.
WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a released statement, “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 supports the process that the ITF and Maria have followed. The ITF has made its ruling and, under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, the decision may be appealed to the Court Arbitration for Sport. The WTA will continue to follow this closely and we hope it will be resolved as soon as possible.”
Meldonium has turned out to be a widely-used drug among European (especially Russian) athletes. It is a metabolic modulator which increases stamina and endurance, but is widely pointed to as a “heart-health drug.”
“It is very important for you to understand that, for 10 years, this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine,” Sharapova said in March.
Sharapova has not played since losing to Serena Williams at the Australian Open in January.
The ITF stated, “The Independent Tribunal determined that Ms. Sharapova should serve a period of ineligibility of two years; Due to her prompt admission of her violation, that period of ineligibility should be back-dated… to commence from 26 January 2016 (the date of sample collection) and so should end at midnight on 25 January 2018. Her results at the 2016 Australian Open should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that she won at that event.”
Sharapova responded with a Facebook post stating she will appeal the decision.
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.
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