Maria Sharapova appeals doping ban, decision could come before Rio Games
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Maria Sharapova appealed her two-year doping ban to the highest court in sports on Tuesday, and an expedited ruling will be issued next month ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Sharapova filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to overturn or reduce the suspension imposed by the International Tennis Federation last week. The Russian tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January, taking it before each match at that tournament even though the substance was banned at the start of 2016.
CAS said both sides agreed to an “expedited procedure” that will allow the court to issue its ruling by July 18, at the latest. So if the suspension is thrown out, Sharapova would be eligible to compete at the Rio Games, which open Aug. 5.
CAS said it hasn’t decided whether to hold a hearing.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player, announced last week she would appeal her suspension. An independent three-person panel appointed by the ITF said Sharapova did not intend to cheat because she didn’t know meldonium was banned, but that she bore “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for the positive test.
The panel also said various elements of Sharapova’s case “inevitably lead to the conclusion” that she took the substance “for the purpose of enhancing her performance.”
“Maria looks forward to CAS hearing her appeal and hopes she’ll be able to play again,” said Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty. “The ITF tribunal concluded she had no intent to do anything wrong and she thinks a two-year suspension is unfairly harsh.”
Sharapova was provisionally suspended by the ITF in early March, shortly before she announced at a news conference in Los Angeles that she failed a doping test. Sharapova said then she was not aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency barred athletes from using meldonium, also known as mildronate, as of Jan. 1.
In addition to testing positive at the Australian Open, the ITF said, she also failed a test for meldonium in an out-of-competition control in Moscow on Feb. 2.
The 29-year-old Sharapova’s ban is due to end on Jan. 25, 2018, which would keep her out of eight Grand Slam tournaments, along with the Olympics.
Sharapova said she first was prescribed the Latvian-made drug, typically used for heart conditions, for medical reasons in 2006. She could have been barred from competing for up to four years.