By Jake Davies, with Editorial Comment by Ros Satar

  • The International Tennis Federation (ITF) have announced a two-year backdated ban to 26 Januaray 2016 for Sharapova’s use of meldonium
  • The Russian plans to appeal against the decision made today by the tribunal

Five-time Grand Slam winner, and former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova will serve out a two-year ban for being found to have taken meldonium, in a positive test made at this year’s Australian Open.

After a long, arduous struggle for an answer to one of the biggest doping cases in not just the history of professional tennis but in sports worldwide – we have now found out the decision behind Maria Sharapova’s doping case. The Russian has received a two year suspension from professional tennis dating back to January 26 of this year, which means in effect she will not play another Grand Slam event until the French Open of 2018. Sharapova admitted continuing to take the banned substance past 1 January, as she said she was unaware it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA’s) banned list of substances.

The two year suspension of Sharapova is one of the heavier and stricter responses by the ITF to a doping case, especially when you take into consideration the case of Marin Cilic, who was given a nine month suspension because of a banned substance found in a French version of a dietary supplement his mother purchased for him over the counter of a local pharmacy. Like Sharapova, the ruling of the ITF is that the drug in question was not taking intentionally – which can be seen with the two year suspension. Any ban that runs higher than the two years would suggest that Sharapova had purposely taken meldonium to enhance her performance and that it was not a legitimate error on her behalf.

The Russian tennis star has already made a statement in correspondence to today’s ruling from the ITF. She explains her reasoning behind appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the following statement on her Facebook page :

“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.”

Sharapova also in a statement via her official Facebook page, announced the harsh reality of the nature of the ban she had received by proclaiming:

“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.”

Her statement in full:

The five-time Grand Slam winner also will have the Australian Open ranking points and prize money revoked because of the timing of the failed drugs test back in January of this year.

Editorial Comment

The findings of the rule make sobering reading – the level of responsibility they level at Sharapova is absolute – the full ruling can be found HERE.

Between the evidence offered of the regimen for pre-competition, in competition and upping the dose ‘during games of special importance’,’ with the crux of their defence lying in the fact that before 2016 the substance was not banned.

However the ruling brought to light some even more worrying lapses of control between the athlete and a significant team around her, including agent Max Eisenbud, who offered into admission the fact that his separation from his wife in 2015 prevented taking his annual vacation during which he would review and check substances taken on the WADA list. This seemed implausible as a  defence, at best.

Taken along with Sharapova failing to declare the taking of the substance after 2010 leaves more questions than answers.

There are no winners from this. Although Sharapova claims she had the moral victory in that the ITF had claimed she intentionally violated the anti-doping rules, and the tribunal ruled that it as unintentional, it seems very hollow if even seen as a victory at all. The sport is robbed for two years of a big crowd draw, and a sponsors’ dream. Sharapova was recently overtaken by Serena Williams as the she topped Forbes Magazine’s women’s earnings list in sports.

That being said, her clothing sponsore Nike reversed their stance, (Via Darren Rovell Twitter)

Sadly though now there is an inevitable doubt cast now against some of her greatest Slam achievements after her breakthrough Wimbledon win.

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