Sharapova given ban reprieve

FILE PHOTO: Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova during their final match of the Fed Cup tennis tournament in Prague, Czech Republic, November 15, 2015.   REUTERS/David W Cerny
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova during their final match of the Fed Cup tennis tournament in Prague, Czech Republic, November 15, 2015. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Tennis star, Maria Sharapova, got a reprieve on Tuesday when her two-year drugs ban was reduced to 15 months.

The five-time Grand Slam winner was banned for two years after she failed a drug test at the Australia Open on January 25.

The sentence has now been reduced by nine months.

The Court of Arbitration for Sports panel that reviewed the case said that Sharapova did not act like an athlete intent on cheating, but still she had to bear the penalty because she was culpable.

“The panel wishes to emphasize that based on the evidence, the player did not endeavor to mask or hide her use of Mildronate and was in fact open about it to many in her entourage,” the panel wrote.

“And based on a doctor’s recommendation, that she took the substance with the good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules and her anti-doping obligations, as it was over a long period of her career, and that she was not clearly informed by the relevant ant-doping authorities of the change in the rules.”

Sharapova tested positive for Meldonium, which was added to WADA’s banned list on January 1, 2016.

After the ban reduction, the 29-year-old said she was already counting the days to returning to the courts.

“I am counting the days until I can return,” she told the BBC.

“In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it.”

Though there are still questions on her usage, the International Tennis Federation [ITF] had deemed her usage was performance-enhancing because of the times Sharapova took the medication.

In its ruling in June, the ITF declared, “If she had believed that there was a continuing medical need to use Mildronate then she would have consulted a medical practitioner.

“The manner of its use, on match days and when undertaking intensive training, is only consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels.”

It was not the first time she was testing positive, as significant quantities of Meldonium were found in her system at Wimbledon 2015. At the time, the drug had not become illegal.

At that Wimbledon event – she was found to have taken Meldonium six times in seven days, and at the 2016 Australian Open five times in seven days. She can, therefore, start preparing for the French Open in 2017.


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