Shara­pova’s ban re­duced

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

MARIA Shara­pova’s two-year dop­ing ban has been re­duced to 15 months fol­low­ing her ap­peal to the Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion for Sport.

The five-time Grand Slam win­ner, 29, was ini­tially banned by the In­ter­na­tional Tennis Fed­er­a­tion for two years af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium at the 2016 Aus­tralian Open.

The Rus­sian will be able to re­turn to the tennis court on 26 April, 2017. “I am count­ing the days un­til I can re­turn,” she said. “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.”

Mel­do­nium, a heart dis­ease drug also known as mil­dronate, be­came a banned sub­stance on 1 Jan­uary 2016.

Shara­pova said she had been tak­ing the drug since 2006 for health prob­lems and had “not tried to use a per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing sub­stance”.

She said she was un­aware the drug had been added to the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency’s (Wada) banned list.

The for­mer world num­ber one said she could not “ac­cept” the “un­fairly harsh” ban when it was an­nounced in June.

The Cas panel said it found Shara­pova’s case “was not about an ath­lete who cheated”, but added she “bore sig­nif­i­cant fault for her vi­o­la­tion”.

It added that Shara­pova was at fault for not giv­ing her agent “ad­e­quate in­struc­tions” in check­ing Wada’s pro­hib­ited list and “fail­ing to su­per­vise and con­trol” her agent.

The tri­bunal rul­ing said Shara­pova tested pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium in an out-of-com­pe­ti­tion test on 2 Fe­bru­ary, as well as in the af­ter­math of her Aus­tralian Open quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat by Ser­ena Williams on 26 Jan­uary. It treated both re­sults as a sin­gle anti-dop­ing vi­o­la­tion. Shara­pova won the Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle as a 17-year-old in 2004, go­ing on to win the Aus­tralian, French and US Opens to com­plete a ca­reer Grand Slam. How­ever, she has not played pro­fes­sional tennis since los­ing to 22-time Grand Slam cham­pion Williams. Her sus­pen­sion is back­dated to 26 Jan­uary 2016, mean­ing Shara­pova can re­turn to com­pet­i­tive ac­tion be­fore next year’s French Open in May. “I’ve gone from one of the tough­est days of my ca­reer last March when I learned about my sus­pen­sion to now, one of my hap­pi­est days, as I found out I can re­turn to tennis in April,” she said. “I have learned from this, and I hope the ITF has as well. Cas con­cluded that ‘the panel has de­ter­mined it does not agree with many of the con­clu­sions of the ITF tri­bunal’. “I have taken re­spon­si­bil­ity from the very be­gin­ning for not know­ing that the over­the-counter sup­ple­ment I had been tak­ing for the last 10 years was no longer al­lowed. “But I also learned how much bet­ter other fed­er­a­tions were at no­ti­fy­ing their ath­letes of the rule change, es­pe­cially in East­ern Europe where mil­dronate is com­monly taken by mil­lions of peo­ple. “Now that this process is over, I hope the ITF and other rel­e­vant tennis ant i - d op­ing au­thor­i­ties will study what these other fed­er­a­tions did, so that no other tennis player will have to go through what I went through.”— BBC.

Maria Shara­pova

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