Maria Sharapova, professional tennis’ highest paid female player, was dealt a blow today with a two-year suspension from the International Tennis Federation for doping. Sharapova admits to taking Meldonium, a banned substance, sometimes used as a heart medication, but still plans to appeal her suspension as overly severe. Sharapova also intends to challenge the decision as Meldonium was just added to the list in January.
According to the Inquisitr, Maria Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open when Meldonium was found in her system. Sharapova, who has won five Grand Slam Championships had been taking Meldonium for years and says she was not aware it had been added to the list of banned substances. Sharapova was put on temporary suspension awaiting the final decision which came out today. Sharapova is now officially banned for two years for using Meldonium. A two-year suspension by the ITF would be devastating at this point in Sharapova’s career.
The New York Times says that the confusion on Sharapova’s part was that Meldonium had just been added to the list of banned substances. Sharapova admits that she received an email that notified her that Meldonium had been added to the banned substances list, but she had not read the email and continued taking the drug not knowing. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Sharapova has been taking Meldonium, also known as Mildronate, for over ten years to manage a variety of health problems (which sounds odd), but the substance is now banned because it is thought to give the user an unfair advantage. Sharapova had a two-day hearing to state her case in mid-May with a three-member tribunal, and she was facing up to a four-year ban. Today, it was decided that even though her ban would be two years, it would be backdated to when she admitted her use of the drug in January.
BREAKING: International Tennis Federation suspends Maria Sharapova 2 years for doping. pic.twitter.com/Ba4vBZuFKs— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 8, 2016
The ITF released a statement about Sharapova’s punishment today.
“The contravention of the antidoping rules was not intentional as Ms. Sharapova did not appreciate that Mildronate contained a substance prohibited from 1 January 2016. However, she does bear sole responsibility for the contravention, and very significant fault, in failing to take any steps to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible.”
But though Maria Sharapova realizes she has made a mistake, she still believes that the punishment is excessive and punitive.
“I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the I.T.F., agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years.”
Slate says that Maria Sharapova admits that by taking a newly banned drug unintentionally, she is the “sole author of her misfortune.” Meldonium increases blood flow, which helps injuries heal faster, giving the person taking it an unfair advantage over other players. Sharapova promptly responded to the punishment saying that she will appeal immediately.
The way Sharapova was taking Meldonium though should have given her a clue that it had some performance enhancing quality. Sharapova took more of Meldonium when training and on game days, and she did not list it on the form that players turn in that lists everything they are taking, including supplements. The tribunal says that this is why Sharapova got the two-year suspension because she intentionally left the Meldonium off of the list of drugs she was taking when she knew it was questionable. The omission was not accidental.
Though Sharapova admits that she received the email that listed Meldonium as a newly banned substance but says she did not read it, there is no proof that she didn’t know that the drug was banned. The ITF believes that this will be part of Sharapova’s appeal. Sharapova also believes that the ITF should have done more to alert players to newly banned drugs.
Do you think Maria Sharapova will be successful in her appeal?
[Photo by Kervork Djansezian/Getty Images]