Maria Sharapova banned for 2 years for doping

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Maria Sharapova (Photo by Alex Zolbert/CNN)

LONDON — The International Tennis Federation has banned Maria Sharapova for two years for an anti-doping rule violation.

Sharapova, 29, had announced her suspension on March  7, after testing positive for meldonium. The substance is prohibited under the 2016 World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List for its performance-enhancing qualities. Sharapova admitted that she had used meldonium regularly since 2006 for health reasons, and did not realize that the substance had been banned at the start of 2016.

Sharapova received a provisional ban from the sport on March 12. An Independent Tribunal appointed by the ITF heard arguments and received evidence during a two-day hearing on May 18-19, and issued their decision on June 8. Because of Sharapova’s prompt admission to the violation, her ban is scheduled to end on January 25, 2018, two years from the collection date of her sample. Sharapova’s results from the 2016 Australian Open were also disqualified.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Sharapova said she would appeal the ITF’s decision. “I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules,” her statement read. “I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension.”

Sharapova was ranked No. 9 by the Women’s Tennis Association, and has regularly competed on the WTA tour since 2001. She was scheduled to play for Russia in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but the ban now rules her ineligible to compete.