Maria Sharapova’s two-year suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium has been reduced to 15 months following a successful appeal, the International Tennis Federation announced on Tuesday.
The four-time Grand Slam winner will be eligible to return to professional tennis in April.
Sharapova, 29, was suspended in June following a positive test for meldonium (also known as Mildronate) at the Australian Open. She admitted her positive test, saying she had taken the substance for ten years for medical reasons. She also said that had not stopped in 2016, after it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s updated list of banned substances, because she had neglected to read WADA’s updated list.
(In a bizarre twist, Sharapova’s agent took the blame for this, in large part because of his divorce. He claimed that he typically read WADA’s updated list while on vacation in the Caribbean with his wife, but because he was going through a divorce did not take his annual trip, and therefore did not read the updated list.)
After announcing her positive test in a sudden press conference that many speculated beforehand would be a retirement announcement, Sharapova immediately appealed the suspension by claiming “No Significant Fault or Negligence.”
On September 7, a Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) panel ruled that because Sharapova had taken meldonium for medical reasons and not as a performance enhancer, her suspension should be cut in half to fifteen months. Backdated from the date of her positive test, that means Sharapova can return this April.
From the ITF:
“Following a hearing on 7 and 8 September 2016, the CAS panel found that Ms. Sharapova had a reduced perception of the risk that she took while using Mildronate, because (a) she had used Mildronate for around ten years without any anti-doping issue, (b) she had consulted the Russian doctor who prescribed the Mildronate for medical reasons, not to enhance her performance, and (c) she had received no specific warning about the change in status of meldonium from WADA, the ITF, or the WTA. In addition, the CAS panel considered that it was reasonable for Ms. Sharapova to entrust the checking of the Prohibited List each year to her agent.”
You can read the full decision here: CAS decision in the case of Maria Sharapova
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