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Maria Sharapova’s Doping Ban Reduced to 15 Months

Maria Sharapova’s doping ban has been reduced by nine months to just 15 months following her appeal to the Court of Arbitration (CAS) on October 4th, 2016.

The 29-year-old tennis star and five grand slam champion was originally banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for Meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. She also tested positive at an out of competition test on February 2nd, 2016.

Maria Sharapova
Meldonium, which Sharapova had been using since 2006, also known as Mildronate, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) banned from January 1st, 2016.

Following the original two-year ban, Sharapova said she could not accept the ban and thought it was unfairly harsh. She appealed the ban on the ground that there was no significant fault or negligence on her part. The panel found Sharapova’s case “was not about an athlete who cheated” and she was not an intentional doper.

What CAS found:

  • CAS accepted her case of no significant fault, by stating Sharapova had a reduced awareness of the risk incurred by taking the medication.
  • The medication was only used for medical reasons, with zero intention to obtain a performance enhancing product.
  • No specific warning was issued by WADA, the ITF, or the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) regarding Meldonium being added to WADA’s banned substance list.
  • She took a public position to acknowledge that she did take Meldonium and accepted the responsibility.

The ban was reduced to 15 months based on the analysis of Sharapova’s degree of fault, this includes her failing to monitor or supervise how her agent met the anti-doping obligatory duties on her. She also failed to discuss with her agent, Max Eisenbud, what process to follow to check the continued availability of the product. Additionally, she also failed to put her agent in contact with her doctor, Dr. Skalny, to check to see if the product has been added to WADA’s banned substance list.

The panel also mentioned Sharapova, cannot simply delegate her obligations to a third party, and then not otherwise provide sufficient instructions, monitoring, or supervision without bearing responsibility.

The reduced ban means Sharapova will be able to make her return to the tennis court on April 27, 2017. This means she will be able to return in time for the French Open, held in May 2017. Sharapova said she is counting down the days until she can return.