(June 8, 2016) Maria Sharapova has been suspended from tennis for two years for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open. Sharapova said she will appeal the ruling by an independent three-person panel appointed by the International Tennis Federation.
Sharapova was initially provisionally suspended by the ITF in March after she announced that she failed a doping test at the Australian Open.
Below is the press release from the ITF about the decision, a PDF of the decision itself, a statement from WADA, Sharapova’s statement on her Facebook page and a statement from the WTA tour.
From the International Tennis Federation: 8 June 2016 – London, ENGLAND
Decision in the case of Maria Sharapova
An Independent Tribunal appointed under Article 8.1 of the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (the “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.
Ms. Sharapova, a 29-year-old player from Russia, provided a urine sample on 26 January 2016, after her quarterfinal match at the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia. That sample was sent to the WADA-accredited laboratory in Montreal, Canada for analysis, and was found to contain meldonium, which is a metabolic modulator that is included under section S4 (Hormone and Metabolic Modulators) of the 2016 WADA Prohibited List, and therefore is also prohibited under the Programme.
On 2 March 2016, Ms. Sharapova was charged with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.1 of the Programme (presence of a Prohibited Substance in a Player’s Sample). She promptly admitted that she had committed the Anti-Doping Rule Violation charged, and asked for a hearing before an Independent Tribunal in accordance with Article 8 of the Programme to determine the consequences to be imposed on her for that violation.
At a two-day hearing on 18-19 May 2016, the Independent Tribunal received evidence and heard legal arguments from both parties, and subsequently issued a reasoned decision on 8 June, which is available at www.itftennis.com/antidoping. The Independent Tribunal determined that (1) Ms. Sharapova should serve a period of ineligibility of two years; (2) due to her prompt admission of her violation, that period of ineligibility should be back-dated under Article 10.10.3(b) of the Programme to commence from 26 January 2016 (the date of sample collection) and so should end at midnight on 25 January 2018; and (3) her results at the 2016 Australian Open should be disqualified, with resulting forfeiture of the ranking points and prize money that she won at that event.
The Tennis Anti-Doping Programme applies to all players competing at Grand Slam tournaments and events sanctioned by the ITF, ATP, and WTA. Players are tested for substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and, upon a finding that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, sanctions are imposed under the Programme in compliance with the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Code. More information on the Programme, sanctions, statistics, and related matters can be found at www.itftennis.com/antidoping.
WADA statement regarding Maria Sharapova case
WADA acknowledges the decision issued today by the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Independent Tribunal which found that Maria Sharapova committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) for the use of banned substance Meldonium, and that, as a consequence, a period of ineligibility of two (2) years has been imposed, commencing on 26 January 2016.
As with all decisions made by Anti-Doping Organizations, WADA will review the decision, including its reasoning, and will subsequently decide whether or not to use its independent right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Today with their decision of a two year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional. The tribunal found that I did not seek treatment from my doctor for the purpose of obtaining a performance enhancing substance. The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not. You need to know that the ITF asked the tribunal to suspend me for four years – the required suspension for an intentional violation — and the tribunal rejected the ITF’s position.
While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world. I have read your letters. I have read your social media posts and your love and support has gotten me through these tough days. I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible.
P.S. My lawyer prepared a short summary of how the ITF process works so I thought I would pass it along to my fans so you too can be aware of what the ITF rules call for