Maria Sharapova two-year ban reduced to 15 months

The court of arbitration for sport made the ruling today as she nears a French Open return

Maria Sharapova

Image: Mike Egerton / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Maria Sharapova has had her two-year doping ban reduced to 15 months today after a panel for the court of arbitration for sport ruled that her anit-doping violation feel under the category of "no significant fault" but that she bore some degree of personal fault.

Sharapova appealed her two-year ban in June, adjudged to have begun in January, after testing positive for recently banned substance meldonium.

The 29-year-old appealed on the grounds of that she did not intend to break the rules. "Ms Sharapova waived her right to have the B sample tested and publicly announced that she had inadvertently committed an anti-doping rule violation as a result of taking Mildronate tablets that had been prescribed by her doctor for many years since she and her team had failed to notice that Meldonium, marketed as Mildronate, now featured on the Prohibited List," the ruling said today.

"The Panel found that Ms Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and that while it was with 'no significant fault', she bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of fifteen months is appropriate."

Sharapova provided the sample in January in this year, insists she had been taking the drug for 10 years previous on advice from her doctor.

She is set to return for April 2017 in time for the French Open.

Maria Sharapova took to Facebook to thank her fans for their support. Image: Adam Davy / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sharapova wrote on Facebook: "Hello SharaFamily! I've gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learned about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days, as I found out I can return to tennis in April.

"In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court. I have learned from this, and I hope the ITF has as well. CAS concluded that 'the Panel has determined it does not agree with many of the conclusions of the [ITF] Tribunal…'

"I have taken responsibility from the very beginning for not knowing that the over-the-counter supplement I had been taking for the last ten years was no longer allowed. But I also learned how much better other Federations were at notifying their athletes of the rule change, especially in Eastern Europe where Mildronate is commonly taken by millions of people.

"Now that this process is over, I hope the ITF and other relevant tennis anti-doping authorities will study what these other Federations did, so that no other tennis player will have to go through what I went through. And to my fans, I thank you so much for living and breathing so many of these tough months together. During this time, I have learned the true meaning of a fan and I am so fortunate to have had your support. I'm coming back soon and I can't wait! Love, Maria".

Statement from the the court of arbitration for sport

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration procedure between Maria Sharapova and the International Tennis Federation (ITF). The

CAS Panel in charge of the matter has reduced her period of suspension, by nine months, from two years to fifteen months, beginning on 26 January 2016.

On 1 January 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s latest list of prohibited substances came into force and included Meldonium for the first time. In March 2016, Ms Sharapova was informed by the ITF that a sample she provided on 26 January 2016, during the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament, had tested positive for the presence of Meldonium.

Ms Sharapova waived her right to have the B sample tested and publicly announced that she had inadvertently committed an anti-doping rule violation as a result of taking Mildronate tablets that had been prescribed by her doctor for many years since she and her team had failed to notice that Meldonium, marketed as Mildronate, now featured on the Prohibited List.

On 6 June 2016, the Independent Tribunal appointed by the ITF to hear the player’s case found that Ms Sharapova had committed an anti-doping rule violation, disqualified her results at the 2016 Australian Open, and imposed a period of ineligibility of two years on the player.

On 9 June 2016, Ms Sharapova filed an appeal at the CAS against the Independent Tribunal’s decision, arguing
that she did not take Mildronate to enhance her performance and that her period of ineligibility should be reduced on the basis of "No Significant Fault".

The ITF requested that the Panel reject the player’s plea of “No Significant Fault” and leave the Independent Tribunal’s decision undisturbed. The arbitration was conducted by a panel of CAS arbitrators: Prof. Luigi Fumagalli, Italy (President), Mr Jeffrey G. Benz, USA and Mr David W. Rivkin, USA. The Panel held a hearing with the parties in New York on 7 and 8 September 2016.

The Panel found that Ms Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and that while it was with "no significant fault”, she bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of fifteen months is appropriate.

The Panel wishes to point out that the case it heard, and the award it has rendered, was only about the degree of fault that can be imputed to the player for her failure to make sure that the substance contained in a product that she had been taking over a long period remained in compliance with the anti-doping rules.