Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(LONDON) — The competition ban against women’s tennis star Maria Sharapova for doping has been reduced from two years to 15 months, the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Tuesday.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF), the world governing body of tennis, also released a statement Tuesday, explaining that an appeal panel, appointed under the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), reduced the sanction following a hearing last month.
Sharapova’s trouble began when the ITF said the 29-year-old Russian tennis star provided a urine sample on Jan. 26, after her quarter-final match at the Australian Open in Melbourne this year. The sample was found to contain a drug called meldonium, which became a banned substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list as of Jan. 1. Sharapova publicly announced in March that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open, but maintained that she was unaware that the drug she had been taking for a decade, mildronate, was also known as meldonium.
After the June 8 decision, banning her from competing for two years, Sharapova appealed “on the basis she bore No Significant Fault or Negligence for her anti-doping rule violation.” The 29-year-old Russian tennis player said she had started using the drug, which helps increase blood and oxygen flow, under a doctor’s guidance in 2006 because of irregular electrocardiogram results as well as a family history of heart issues and diabetes.
Although the CAS panel found Sharapova was at fault for “failing to give her agent adequate instructions as to how to carry out the important task of checking the Prohibited List,” and “failing to supervise and control the actions of her agent in carrying out that task (specifically the lack of any procedure for reporting or follow-up verification to make sure that her agent had actually discharged his duty,” the panel agreed that Sharapova bore “No Significant Fault.”
The reduced ban will now end at midnight on April 25, 2017. Sharapova will return to tennis on April 26.
“In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back,” Sharapova said after the appeal panel’s decision to reduce the ban. “Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court.”
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