Maria Sharapova plans to fight her two-year ban. (Susan Mullane/USA Today Sports)
Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for meldonium at this year’s Australian Open.
The suspension came from an independent three-person panel selected by the ITF, which ruled that Sharapova did not intend to cheat by using the recently banned meldonium, yet she carried “sole responsibility” for testing positive in January.
Sharapova, 29, immediately posted on her Facebook page to say that she will be appealing the ban.
“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.
The required length of suspension for an intentional violation is four years, but the ITF tribunal rejected a full suspension.
“The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong,” Sharapova continued, “yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years.”
A five-time Grand Slam champion, Sharapova was temporarily suspended in March for failing a doping test in January. In a news conference that month, she admitted using the drug this year and claimed she wasn’t aware the World Anti-Doping Agency banned the use of meldonium as of Jan. 1. She also said she has used the drug since 2006 for health issues.
Her results from this year’s Australian Open have been disqualified, forcing her to forfeit both prize money and ranking points.
Sharapova’s appeal will be sent to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, where three judges will make the ruling. Sharapova and the ITF each get to choose one of the judges, and the decision made will be binding.
“I made a huge mistake,” Sharapova said in her news conference in March. “Throughout my long career I have been very open and honest. … I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job every day.
“I don’t want to end my career this way. I hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”