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Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been banned from competitive tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The ban is the result of positive tests and Sharapova's own admissions that she had used meldonium, an alleged performance-enhancing drug that was just placed on World Anti-Doping Agency's List of Prohibited Substances and Materials this year.
Here's a look at the ban, and Sharapova's options to appeal the decision.
Sharapova herself admitted to failing a drug test and to using meldonium for ten years to treat a magnesium deficiency and irregular EKG results. The ITF took her proactive stance into consideration and conceded that she had not intentionally broken revised anti-doping rules: "The ITF accepts that the player did not engage in conduct that she knew constituted an antidoping rule violation."
Sharapova was facing a four-year ban if the violation was intentional. Her current suspension will be backdated to begin January 26, 2016, and expire at midnight on January 25, 2018. She will also have to return prize money that she earned during a quarterfinals appearance at the Australian Open earlier this year.
The admission to the positive drug test along with the suspension has cost Sharapova millions -- she had been the highest-earning female in the world before corporate brands Nike, Porsche, and TAG Heuer pulled their sponsorship. Sharapova has already announced she will appeal the ban:
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. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will also review the decision before deciding whether to appeal independently to the CAS, and the timing on any ruling on appeal is up in the air.
While Sharapova blamed her ignorance about meldonium's status on a missed email (and her agent blamed his own marriage troubles for failing to alert her), the ITF concluded, "She was the sole author of her own misfortune."
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