After she had tested positive for the drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January, Maria Sharapova ended up with a two-year ban from playing tennis. The former world No. 1 player has now officially filed an appeal against the ruling by the International Tennis Federation. If she does get this appeal ruled in her favor, this would enable her to possibly participate in the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.
Sharapova has taken her plea to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in order to have the ban lifted, or at the very least reduced, as seen in the official statement released on the TAS-CAS website posted on Tuesday. In addition, the Russian has asked for this petition to be expedited with the Olympics coming up on August 5.
“Ms. Sharapova seeks the annulment of the Tribunal’s decision to sanction her with a two-year period of ineligibility further to an anti-doping rule violation. Ms Sharapova submits that the period of ineligibility should be eliminated, or in the alternative, reduced.”
The ITF had sentenced the Russian player last week to be banned from tennis for two years after she had tested positive for meldonium in January. The drug was just recently added to the anti-doping list at the beginning of this year. Even though Sharapova had been taking it since 2006, she had apparently not let officials know that or why her doctor had initially had her taking it.
Meldonium is usually taken for heart issues, as Maria said that was the reason that she was originally prescribed the drug. However, it can also boost energy levels making it a performance drug, and that is why officials chose to finally add it to the list of banned substances. The ITF stands behind their decision with this statement that was posted about Maria Sharapova being banned for two years.
“Whatever the position may have been in 2006, there was in 2016 no diagnosis and no therapeutic advice supporting the continuing use of (meldonium). If she had believed that there was a continuing medical need to use (meldonium) then she would have consulted a medical practitioner. The manner of its use, on match days and when undertaking intensive training, is only consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels.”
The statement went on to say that because Maria Sharapova had chosen to hide the fact that she was using the drug by not reporting it, and because she had no recent medical justification in taking it, then they came to the conclusion that she was continuing its use for performance enhancement.
— IMG Tennis (@IMGTennis) June 11, 2016
When the two-year ban was announced a week ago, many former and current tennis pros spoke out on how they felt about the whole situation and if it was indeed fair. British player Andy Murray was one of them and he stands behind the fact that punishments should be passed out if someone is cheating in sports. However, he does not want to comment on whether the two-year ban is a good thing or not. He believes in the system of letting the tennis officials declare what is fair. As noted by For The Win, he told reporters that there is no excuse for any player not to know what is on the banned list at all times.
“I don’t really see that as being a valid excuse. If you’re taking any medication, it’s your responsibility as the athlete to check and make sure what you’re taking is legal. If you’re taking medication, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t know whether it’s on the banned list or not.”
— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) June 15, 2016
Maria Sharapova had claimed that she did not read the email that was sent out of the newly revised list. She also said that her whole team was not aware either. Murray declared that it is ultimately the player’s responsibility to keep updated at all times.
Even Roger Federer agrees. He has recently stated that there should be zero tolerance for not knowing that the drug you are taking is or is not on the list. He believes the punishment fits the crime.
Whether Maria Sharapova gets her ban lifted or not, this whole ordeal may just continue to put a black cloud over her head, even if she does get it completely eliminated. The final decision will be announced by July 18.
What do you think? Can her tennis career survive her bouncing back onto the court without paying the price as some think she should?
[Photo by AP Images/Lynne Sladky]