Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in March during the Australian Open
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who had been admitted to failing a drug test at the Australian Open in January, has now been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation.
The Russian, who had been provisionally banned in March after testing positive for meldonium at January's Australian Open, will appeal against Wednesday's ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She is arguing that she did not purposely seek a performance-enhancing substance from her doctor.
The five-time Grand Slam champion had announced in March in a press conference in Los Angeles that she had been taking the drug ever since 2006 and didn't realise that it became a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at the start of 2016.
The International Tennis Federation, about an hour after her admission, said on its website that the 29-year-old would be provisionally banned from March 12. The usual ban for first-time offenders is two years.
The failed drug test came on January 26 -- after Sharapova lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals -- and she was charged with an anti-doping violation on March 2, the governing body had said.
Sharapova said she began taking the medication, which can be used to treat heart issues, after irregular EKGs and being deficient in magnesium. Her family also has a history of diabetes, she added.
WADA stated in September that the anti-ischemic drug, also known as mildronate, would be added to the prohibited list and Sharapova blamed herself for not taking note of the new list.
Her lawyer, John Haggerty, claimed Sharapova took the substance after that date.
Sharapova said she first was prescribed the Latvian-made drug, typically used for heart conditions, for medical reasons in 2006.
Three of Sharapova's top sponsors -- global sports apparel giants Nike, Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer and German car manufacturer Porsche -- had suspended their ties with her after the Russian tennis star announced that she had failed the drug test.