ISTANBUL (AA) – The International Tennis Federation banned star player Maria Sharapova for two years Wednesday after she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January this year.
Sharapova had been provisionally banned since March after she tested positive for meldonium on Jan. 26, a substance banned since Jan. 1, 2016.
According to the statement released on the official website of the federation, the world renowned Russian player’s period of ineligibility of two years would commence from Jan. 26 2016.
At a two-day hearing on May 18 and May 19 this year an independent tribunal, appointed under the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Program, “determined that (1) Ms. Sharapova should serve a period of ineligibility of two years;
“(2) due to her prompt admission of her violation, that period of ineligibility should be back-dated under Article 10.10.3(b) of the Program to commence from Jan. 26, 2016 [the date of her urine sample collection] and so should end at midnight on Jan. 25, 2018;
“And (3) her results at the 2016 Australian Open should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that she won at that event," the statement said.
The 29-year-old Russian athlete called the ban “harsh”.
In remarks made on her Facebook account Wednesday, she said: "While the [International Tennis Federation] tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension."
The five-time Grand Slam winner said she would appeal the ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, arguing that she had been taking the heart disease drug since 2006 for health issues.
Sharapova said she did not know meldonium had been banned since Jan.1.
"I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world. I have read your letters," she said.
"I have read your social media posts and your love and support has gotten me through these tough days," Sharapova 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."