Maria Sharapova has been banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation after failing a drugs test.

Maria Sharapova Banned For Two Years After Failed Drugs Tests, Set To Appeal

The Russian star was provisionally suspended in March after testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

The heart disease drug, which boosts blood and oxygen flow, became a banned substance on January 1, 2016. Sharapova, 29, said in March she began using the drug in 2006 under a doctor’s guidance due to irregular electrocardiogram results and a family history of heart issues and diabetes.

The five-time Grand Slam champion says she will appeal against the ban, which is backdated to January 26, 2016.


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“I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” Sharapova said in a statement posted on Facebook. “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.”

The Russian then continued: “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,” she said. “I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible.”

The ITF stated Sharapova tested positive for meldonium in an out-of-competition test on February 2, as well as her subsequent Australian Open quarter-final loss to Serena Williams on January 26, which was her most recent game.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said in April that scientists remained unsure exactly how long meldonium stayed in the system, and suggested athletes who tested positive before March 1 could avoid suspensions, provided they had stopped taking it before January 1.

Nevertheless, Sharapova had already admitted she continued using the substance past that date, claiming she was unaware it had been added to the banned list as she knew it by another name: mildronate. Her lawyer, John Haggerty, also said she took the substance after that date.

The governing body argued that Sharapova’s records with the doctor ended in 2013, yet she continued to take the drug.

Sharapova and the Russian team had hoped she would be cleared in time to compete at the Olympics in Rio, Brazil in August, but after the ruling, Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told the Tass news agency that Ekaterina Makarova would replace her.

The appeal will be sent to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, where three judges will make the ruling. Both Sharapova and the ITF get to choose one of the judges. The decision will be binding.

If her original suspension is maintained, Sharapova will sit out through the 2018 Australian Open.

Her last major victory came at the 2014 French Open. She is ranked 26th in the world as of this week. When Sharapova announced her positive test, her endorsement deals with Nike and Porsche were suspended.

PHOTO: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 22: Maria Sharapova of Russia plays a backhand in her third round match against Lauren Davis of the United States during day five of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 22, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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