Maria Sharapova to appeal drugs ban

PREPARED TO FIGHT: Maria Sharapova said the two-year doping ban was harsh.
PREPARED TO FIGHT: Maria Sharapova said the two-year doping ban was harsh. Cameron Spencer

Maria Sharapova took to social media to announce her intention to appeal what she calls a “harsh” two-year suspension handed down by the International Tennis Federation following her positive test for the banned drug meldonium.

The suspension will be backdated to January 26, the date Sharapova tested positive at the Australian Open to taking a drug that had been legal until January 1 of this year but was then added to the WADA banned list.

The Russian former world No.1 pleaded her case at a tribunal last month and after yesterday’s announcement by the ITF, she left a statement on her Facebook page to tell her side of the story.

“The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not,” Sharapova wrote. “You need to know that 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. While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension.”

Following the initial announcement of the positive test, sponsor Tag Heuer dropped Sharapova as a spokeswoman. After the news of the ITF ban, however, Nike said it would stand behind the five-time major title winner.

“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” Nike said. “Maria has always made her position clear, has apologised for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban. Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her.”

Racquet manufacturer Head also threw its support behind Sharapova.

“We believe, based on the facts and circumstances provided to us, that this is a flawed decision,” the statement from its chairman Johan Eliasch said.

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