Maria Sharapova Suspended Two Years Over Failed Drug Test
Entertainment| | By Margo Gothelf
Tennis professional Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation.
The tennis pro tested positive for the banned substance meldonium during a drug test for the Australian Open. She received a provisional ban on March 12 and immediately responded with a press conference. The final decision to suspend Sharapova was announced on Wednesday after a three-person tribunal met. Sharapova plans to appeal the decision.
“The ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional,” Sharapova wrote in a statement. “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 amount 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.”
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Before the tribunal took place, members from the ITF wanted to suspend Sharapova for four years. However, she was able to receive the shorter suspension since her actions were unintentional.
“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,” Sharapova wrote.
Head of the World-Anti Doping Agency, Steve Simon, spoke out about the verdict explaining how important it is for players to know the rules.
“It is important at all times for players to be aware of the rules and to follow them,” Simon explained. “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 news of the failed drug test came in March after the Grand Slam winner explained she was taking meldonium since 2006 for heart issues, a magnesium deficient, and to prevent her family history of diabetes. The tennis star missed an email that stated the drug would be banned. She also claimed she knew the drug by its trade name, Mildronate, adding to the oversight.
If the sentence is kept, Sharapova will be 31 years old during her next Grand Slam tournament in 2018. The suspension could also damage Sharapova financially, as her deals with Nike and Porsche were suspended with the news of the failed drug test. Evian and Head, her other endorsement deals, have stayed with her while Tag Heuer did not renew their contract. Her candy line, “Sugarpova” is still up and running.
See the details of Sharapova’s statement and the tribunal case on her Facebook page .