MARIA Sharapova, the five-time tennis Grand Slam champion, has been handed a two-year ban after failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.
The 29-year-old Russian took meldonium, a commonly-used heart disease drug, for a period of time which overlapped the 1 January 2016 cut-off date, when it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) banned list.
At an anti-doping hearing in London on Wednesday, Sharapova was informed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) that she would be banned for two years as meldonium is a metabolic modulator which increases stamina and endurance.
Sharapova, who won Wimbledon in 2004, has avoided the maximum four-year ban after Wada admitted earlier this year that scientists could not determine how long the drug remained in the user's system after it had been taken.
It is reported that Sharapova will now appeal against the ban, which has been backdated to 26 January 2016, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"It is very important for you to understand that, for 10 years, this medicine was not on Wada's banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine," she said in March.
Former world number one Sharapova admitted to taking meldonium for 10 years after being recommended to do so by a family-approved doctor on medical grounds.
All athletes were informed that the drug had been added to the banned list at the beginning of the calendar year but Sharapova insists she only knew the drug by the name mildronate.
The ITF confirmed that Sharapova failed the drug test on the same day as her quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams in Melbourne. She was informed of the failed test via letter in March.
A statement said: "An Independent Tribunal appointed under Article 8.1 of the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has found that Maria Sharapova committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme and as a consequence has disqualified the affected results and imposed a period of
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