Tennis Identity

Sharapova wins appeal, drug ban cut to 15 months

Maria Sharapova

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has struck down the previous ruling by the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and the previous two-year ban has been reduced to 15 months. Sharapova can return to the court on April 26, 2017.

Here’s a statement from her Facebook page:

We will hear from Maria tonight, too. She’s on the Charlie Rose show on PBS– here’s a preview:

Maria and Charlie Rose

Maria and Charlie Rose

As you might expect, the sponsors were quick to chime in:

Not everyone was happy this morning, though. Over to you, Pammy:

On, Shriver indicated that Sharapova will still be a threat at Grand Slam events. “She can still win majors.” Fellow analyst Brad Gilbert isn’t so sure. “I think it’s going to be really difficult for her. Fifteen months is a long, long time. You don’t know how long it will take her to find her rhythm. Mentally, this had to be tough because unlike injury or maternity leave, you know you should be out there playing. I think she gets herself into shape in 2017, pulls her ranking back up (since she will be defending no points from the previous year, she’ll have no ranking) and is in position to contend in 2018.”

Maria Sharapova

Back on March 7th, Maria Sharapova announced she had failed a drug test at this year’s Australian Open for the drug Meldonium, a drug she had taken since 2006 because of a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. The drug was classified as “banned” effective January 1st of this year. Sharapova then challenged the ban and the ITF stated at the time she “did not intend to cheat but was at “very significant fault.”

Last month, it was revealed that American tennis player Varvara Lepchenko tested positive four times for the same drug. According to this story from The Washington Times, “It was determined she took the substance before its ban went into effect on Jan. 1.” Like Maria, she was “provisionally suspended” (in March,) but “it was later determined that she ‘bore no fault or negligence for the violation.'” The story adds that Lepchenko had taken Mildronate tablets (the same as Meldonium) “on or around” Dec. 20th of last year.

This ruling may or may not have played a part in the Sharapova ruling. Had the ITF’s original ban been upheld, it may have appeared as though they were making an example out of a “high-value target” such as Sharapova, even as a lower profile player was getting a pass from similar circumstances. From the start, Sharapova owned this entire episode and took full responsibility. Now that a final ruling is in, we can look forward to her return next spring just in time for the French Open.

B&W Maria photo from @Mariasharapova Twitter. Color shot from Forehand photo via Nike. Studio photos via Charlie Rose.

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