Maria Sharapova has been handed a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation after failing a drug test at the Australian Open.
The five-time grand slam champion says she will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the court of arbitration for sport. Sharapova was provisionally banned in March after testing positive for meldonium at January’s Australian Open. She will not be allowed to compete until 26 January 2018, meaning the 29-year old Russian will miss the Olympic Games in Rio this summer while the earliest grand slam she could next compete in will be the French Open in 2018.
Sharapova responded to the ruling with a statement on her Facebook account. It read: “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.”