Maria Sharapova has had his doping ban reduced from two years to 15 months on appeal, allowing him to return to the sport in time for next year’s French Open.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has reduced the initial two-year ban imposed by the International Tennis Federation in June after it was determined that the five-time Grand Slam champion was “the sole author of his own misfortune”.
“The panel found that Ms. Sharapova committed a violation of anti-doping rules and that while he was with ‘no fault significant’, gave birth to a degree of guilt, so a penalty of 15 months is appropriate” said a statement from Cas.
“The panel notes that the case was heard, and the award was rendered, was only on the degree of guilt may be imputed to the player for failing to ensure that the substance contained in a product that had been taking for a long period remained in compliance with anti-doping rules. ”
Sharapova’s initial two-year ban was imposed in June but was deemed to have started on 26 January 2016, the day she failed a test for the then recently banned drug meldonium after losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. Its reduction to 15 months will mean she can compete once again after midnight on 25 April.
Sharapova admitted she had failed the test, but has since maintained since that she took the drug before it was banned and for health reasons only, on the advice of her doctor over a 10-year period. The International Tennis Federation’s initial tribunal found that while she had not intentionally contravened anti-doping rules, she bore sole responsibility for the substance being in her system during the Australian Open and for her failure to notice that the drug had been added to the banned list.
It also found that Sharapova had deliberately concealed her use of meldonium from the authorities, who require athletes to declare all frequently used medications, as well as from her own coaches and team.
The panel pointed out that the case it heard and award it rendered were only about the degree of fault of a player for failing to ensure a substance in a product she had used over a long period of time complied with anti-doping rules.
In a statement, Sharapova said, “I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learned about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days, as I found out I can return to tennis in April.
“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. I am counting the days until I can return to the court.”
Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January for taking meldonium, which was added to the banned substances list this year. In July, the ITF suspended her for two years.
An independent tribunal backdated her suspension to the date of her sample collection because of her “prompt admission of her violation.”
Her initial two-year suspension would have run through Jan. 26, 2018.
“If she had not concealed her use of Mildronate [the drug’s trade name] from the anti-doping authorities, members of her own support team and the doctors whom she consulted, but had sought advice, then the contravention would have been avoided,” the tribunal said in its judgment. “She is the sole author of her own misfortune.”
Sharapova appealed against the two-year ban in June, with a statement from her lawyer saying she “did not intend to violate the rules”. They added she was given an “unfairly harsh suspension because she is such a famous athlete and they wanted to make an example out of her”