The International Tennis Federation have released a statement saying Maria Sharapova will be suspended from the sport from March 12 after the five-times Grand Slam winner admitting failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.
Sharapova said she had been taking the banned substance meldonium from a family doctor over the past 10 years before it was put on Wada’s (Word Anti-Doping Agency) banned list at the start of the year.
Russian Sharapova – the richest sportswoman in the world, earning of £21m last year – faces a ban which media commentators are speculating could be at least a year.
The sport’s governing body said: “Following the statement made by Maria Sharapova in a press conference today, the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) can confirm the following:
• On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova provided an anti-doping sample to the TADP in association with her participation in the 2016 Australian Open.
• That sample was analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory, which returned a positive for meldonium, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Code and, therefore also the TADP.
• In accordance with Article 8.1.1 of the TADP, Ms Sharapova was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
• Ms Sharapova has accepted the finding of meldonium in her sample collected on 26 January.
• As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case.
“The Tennis Anti-Doping Programme is a comprehensive and internationally recognised drug-testing programme that applies to all players competing at Grand Slam tournaments and events sanctioned by the ITF, ATP, and WTA.
Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2016. – AFP
“Players are tested for substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency and, upon a finding that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation has been committed, sanctions are imposed in accordance with the requirements of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and World Anti-Doping Code.”
Sharapova is 28 and hopes she will be able to return to compete to at the top level after discovering the length of a ban.
“I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game,” said Sharapova.
“What I put in my body is my responsibility. This is new to me.
“I made a huge mistake.
“I have let my fans down, and let the sport down that I have been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply.”