Maria Sharapova Was Suspended For Two Years After Testing Positive For A Banned Drug
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced Wednesday that Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years after testing positive for a banned drug. Sharapova said in a March press conference that she had failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January, for which she was temporarily banned from the sport. The 29-year-old tennis star claimed she had been taking the prohibited medicine, meldonium, for ten years because her family has a history of heart issues and diabetes.
The ITF explained its decision in a statement to the press that read: “An Independent Tribunal appointed under Article 8.1 of the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has found that Maria Sharapova committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme and as a consequence has disqualified the affected results and imposed a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on 26 January 2016.”
Sharapova, the highest-paid female athlete until recently, shocked her fans when she admitted to taking meldonium. She said in a Facebook post Wednesday that she plans to appeal the suspension, pointing out that the ITF’s decision stated that her drug use was not intended to improve her performance. “While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” she wrote. “I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world.”
The five-time grand slam winner claimed she didn’t see the email explaining that meldonium would be added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of banned medications starting January 1. She also argued that she knew the drug she’s been taking for a decade by its trade name, Mildronate. However, the ITF thought the oversight still warranted two years off the court.
Russia originally planned to have Sharapova play for its tennis team in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but she’s now forced to sit out the games. She also won’t be allowed to compete in Wimbledon later this month, the competition that helped launch her career when she won the prestigious title in 2004 when she was only 17.
Sharapova was the highest-paid female athlete for 11 straight years, only overtaken by Serena Williams this week. Sharapavo was making $21.9 million a year before her suspension, and Forbes reports that Williams earned $28.9 million over the past 12 months. Sharapova’s drug use has already negatively affected her income, as Nike and Tag Heuer cut ties with the tennis star after she tested positive for meldonium in March.