Shara­pova sus­pended for 2 years for dop­ing

Pakistan Observer - - SPORTS -

LON­DON—Maria Shara­pova was sus­pended from ten­nis for two years Wed­nes­day for test­ing pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium at the Aus­tralian Open, and im­me­di­ately re­sponded by say­ing she would ap­peal the de­ci­sion to sport’s high­est court.

The rul­ing by an in­de­pen­dent three­p­er­son panel ap­pointed by the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion said Shara­pova did not in­tend to cheat, but that she bore ‘’sole re­spon­si­bil­ity’’ and ‘’very sig­nif­i­cant fault’’ for the pos­i­tive test.

‘’While the tri­bunal con­cluded cor­rectly that I did not in­ten­tion­ally vi­o­late the anti-dop­ing rules, I can­not ac­cept an un­fairly harsh two-year sus­pen­sion,’’ Shara­pova said in a state­ment. ‘’The tri­bunal, whose mem­bers were se­lected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do any­thing in­ten­tion­ally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from play­ing ten­nis for two years. I will im­me­di­ately ap­peal the sus­pen­sion por­tion of this rul­ing to CAS, the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport.’’

The five-time Grand Slam cham­pion was pro­vi­sion­ally sus­pended by the ITF in early March, when she an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence in Los An­ge­les that she failed a dop­ing test in Jan­uary.

Shara­pova said then she was not aware that the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency had barred ath­letes from us­ing mel­do­nium, also known as mil­dronate, as of Jan. 1.

Her lawyer, John Hag­gerty, said Shara­pova took the sub­stance af­ter that date.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the ITF ar­gued their side, while Hag­gerty ar­gued hers. He said she spoke at the hear­ing.

In ad­di­tion to test­ing pos­i­tive at the Aus­tralian Open, the ITF said she also failed a test for mel­do­nium in an out-of-com­pe­ti­tion con­trol in Moscow on Feb. 2. Shara­pova said she first was pre­scribed the Lat­vian-made drug, typ­i­cally used for heart con­di­tions, for med­i­cal rea­sons in 2006. She could have been barred from com­pet­ing for up to four years.

‘’To­day with their de­ci­sion of a twoyear sus­pen­sion, the ITF tri­bunal unan­i­mously con­cluded that what I did was not in­ten­tional,’’ Shara­pova said. ‘’The tri­bunal found that I did not seek treat­ment from my doctor for the pur­pose of ob­tain­ing a per­for­mance en­hanc­ing sub­stance.

‘’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.’’

The ban throws into doubt the on-court future of Shara­pova, a 29-year-old Rus­sian who is one of the most well-known and - thanks to a wide ar­ray of en­dorse­ments - high­est-earn­ing ath­letes in the world.

She is a for­mer top-ranked player who is one of 10 women in ten­nis history with a ca­reer Grand Slam - at least one ti­tle from each of the sport’s four most im­por­tant tour­na­ments. So much came so eas­ily for her at the start: Wim­ble­don cham­pion in 2004 at age 17; No. 1 in the rank­ings at 18; U.S. Open cham­pion at 19; Aus­tralian Open cham­pion at 20.

An op­er­a­tion to her right shoul­der in 2008 took her off the tour for months, and her rank­ing dropped out­side the top 100. But she worked her way back, and in 2012, won the French Open, then added a se­cond ti­tle in Paris two years later.

Shara­pova hasn’t played since a quar­ter­fi­nal loss to Ser­ena Wil­liams at this year’s Aus­tralian Open, and she is ranked 26th this week.

Mel­do­nium in­creases blood flow, which improves ex­er­cise ca­pac­ity by car­ry­ing more oxy­gen to the mus­cles.

In April, cit­ing a lack of sci­en­tific ev­i­dence about how long the drug re­mains in a per­son’s sys­tem, WADA said that pro­vi­sional sus­pen­sions may be lifted if it is de­ter­mined that an ath­lete took mel­do­nium be­fore it went on the list of banned sub­stances. About 200 ath­letes tested pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium this year from var­i­ous sports and coun­tries - many, like Shara­pova, were Rus­sian - and some said the drug stayed in their sys­tems for months even though they stopped us­ing it in 2015.

But, ac­cord­ing to Hag­gerty, that was not the case for Shara­pova.—AP

MOSCOW: The 29-year old Maria Shara­pova, the five-time ten­nis Grand Slam Cham­pion has been handed a two-year ban afer fail­ing an anti-dop­ing test at the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary.

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