Maria Sharapova has been suspended for two years, commencing on January 26, 2016, by the International Tennis Federation for testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open.
The ruling, announced on Wednesday, can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The five-time Grand Slam champion was provisionally suspended by the ITF in early March, when she announced at a news conference in Los Angeles that she failed a doping test in January.
"It is important at all times for players to be aware of the rules and to follow them," said WTA CEO Steve Simon. "In this case, Maria has taken responsibility for her mistake from the outset. The WTA supports the process that the ITF and Maria have followed. The ITF has made its ruling and, under the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, the decision may be appealed to the Court Arbitration for Sport. The WTA will continue to follow this closely and we hope it will be resolved as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, Sharapova said she would appeal the two-year doping ban handed down to her by the ITF for doping and which threatens to end her career. Releasing a statement on her Facebook page, Sharapova said, “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. The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not. You need to know that the ITF asked the tribunal to suspend me for four years – the required suspension for an intentional violation -- and the tribunal rejected the ITF’s position.”
“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” said Sharapova in the statement.”
“I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world. 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,” she said.