|Sharapova has not played since the Australian Open in January (Getty)|
Maria Sharapova has had her two-year doping ban reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The five-time Grand Slam winner was banned by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for the drug meldonium at the Australian Open earlier this year.
Sharapova revealed that she had been taking the drug since 2006 for health problems. However, it was added to the list of banned substances at the turn of the year and Sharapova was found to have had it in her system at the first Grand Slam of 2016.
In June the ITF ruled that the Russian athlete was ‘the sole author of her own misfortune’ and gave her a two-year ban, backdated to her original suspension in January.
What is meldonium?
It is used to treat ischaemia – a lack of blood flow to parts of the body. Sharapova said she was taking it because of a magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes. But because it increases blood flow, it improves an athlete’s exercise capacity, thereby enhancing the performance of the user. A decision to ban it was made in September 2015 and came into effect on 1 January 2016.
However CAS chose to reduce the ban, explaining: ‘The Panel found that Ms Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and that while it was with “no significant fault”, she bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of fifteen months is appropriate. The Panel wishes to point out that the case it heard, and the award it has rendered, was only about the degree of fault that can be imputed to the player for her failure to make sure that the substance contained in a product that she had been taking over a long period remained in compliance with the anti-doping rules.’
Today’s announcement means she will be able to return to action in April next year, meaning she could be in action at both the French Open and Wimbledon over the summer.
Her ban will be officially lifted on 26 April 2017.
Credit: Metro, UK