Maria Sharapova's Two-year Ban
Fans of tennis star Maria Sharapova have already spent a sleepless night, or are just waking up to their worse sporting nightmare. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has served 29-year-old Sharapova with a two-year ban, after she tested positive test for ‘meldonium’, a banned substance, according to this report by the Reuters.
The media has been abuzz with stories of what is being seen as ‘the beginning, of the end’ of the glorious career of the former World No 1, who is a five-time grand slam title winner, and has earned $36 million on court. Off court too, her earnings are reported to be around $200 million, reported Reuters, quoting from the Forbes magazine. Sharapova will lose the quarter-finalist’s prize money she won at the Australian Open earlier this year, as the ITF’s ban has been backdated to January 26, 2016.
However, the Russian tennis star has assured her fans that she will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), against the ban. Sharapova posted her statement on her Facebook page, and said that she did not “seek treatment from my doctor for the purpose of obtaining a performance enhancing substance” and that the tribunal knows that.
“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 performance enhancing substances,” she said.
She alleged that the ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove that she had intentionally violated anti-doping rules. “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.” She has hinted that this means she is being punished too harshly. She said she will not accept such a punishment and will appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to the CAS, adding that she does not want to stop playing tennis for the next two years.
“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.”
Sharapova has reached out to her fans for support and said she missed them, calling them, “the best and most loyal fans in the world”. She said it was her fans’ love and support that has helped her cope with the current situation. “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,” she added, signing off with an endearing “Love, Maria”.
The ITF has said that Sharapova “was the sole author of her own misfortune". “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.”
Maria Sharapova is one of the highest-paid sportswomen of our times. Her on-court success and her athletic glamour has also made her one of the most popular sportswomen in recent history. The doping allegations, and her own announcement of the positive drug test, had shaken the world of sport and her fans in March.
It is fair to say that this controversy is far from over. The battle to clear her name will continue for Maria Sharapova, that too in the public eye.