Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova can be back in competitive action as early as the end of April 2017. The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has made a verdict on her appeal against a two-year doping ban yesterday. The ban has been reduced to 15 months, and will be counted from the time she first tested positive for banned substance meldonium in the Australian Open in January 2016.
“I am counting the days until I can return,” said Sharapova, in a statement shared by the BBC. “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. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it,” she added.
The reduction of her suspension down to 15 months came as a result of an appeal that she made with the CAS. She claimed that she had been taking meldonium since 2006, after it had been prescribed to treat a medical condition. She was then unaware that the drug had been added to the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Jan. 1, 2016.
In a follow-up report by the BBC, The International Tennis Federation has warned players that they will no longer be able to use ignorance as an excuse for testing positive for banned substances.
“We have reviewed, and will continue to review, our processes for communicating changes to the prohibited list to players with the aim of ensuring that no player can claim that they had not been fully informed,” read an ITF statement. They also maintained their stance that they had sufficiently publicized any changes and informed the players about the banned substance list.
While Maria Sharapova fully takes responsibility for the positive test, her camp still insists that she was not properly informed. Now that the ruling is out, she has accepted the verdict and sees it as a learning experience both for herself and for the ITF.
After she completes the 15-month ban, Sharapova can be expected to return in time for the French Open and Wimbledon 2017.
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