Fault for Maria Sharapova. The tennis star has been suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open in January, according to the Associated Press.
The ruling was announced Wednesday, June 8, but Sharapova, 29, will appeal the doping ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The decision said she did not intend to cheat but took “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for failing the test, the AP reports.
“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,” Sharapova wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. "While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. … 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,” she continued. "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."
The Russian athlete was provisionally suspended back in March after she tested positive for meldonium (a.k.a. Mildronate). She has been taking the drug for a health issue since 2006, but it was only recently added to a list of banned substances.
“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” she said at an L.A. press conference in March. "For the past 10 years, I have been given a medicine called Mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name, meldonium, which I did not know. It’s very important for you to understand for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list, and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years.”
The five-time Grand Slam champ also addressed rumors that she might retire due to the controversy. “I know that with this I face consequences, and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope to be given another chance to play this game,” she said. “I know many of you thought that I would be retiring today, but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.”
Earlier this week, Sharapova lost her title of highest-paid female athlete to fellow tennis pro Serena Williams after an 11-year streak, according to Forbes. Her payout dropped down nearly $8 million from last year to this year due to the failed drug test, with sponsors including Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer suspending their relationships with her.
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