CAS Reduces Maria Sharapova’s Ban To 15 Months

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Bern: Maria Sharapova’s two year suspension has been reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration (CAS) on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old tennis star can return to play in April, making her eligible to compete in the French Open next year.

Sharapova failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January for taking meldonium, which was added to the banned substances list this year. In July, the ITF suspended her for two years.

An independent tribunal backdated her suspension to the date of her sample collection because of her “prompt admission of her violation.”

Her ban would have run through Jan. 26, 2018.

Since announcing her positive drug test, Sharapova asserted that she did not realize meldonium, which is also known by its brand name Mildronate, had been banned. While she had taken the drug for more than 10 years, the ITF tribunal took issue with her efforts to conceal her use of it.

She tested positive for meldonium seven times since 2015 — largely during that year when the World Anti-Doping Agency was monitoring its use and it was not banned — and she failed to disclose that on seven doping control forms.

“She must have known that taking a medication before a match, particularly one not currently prescribed by a doctor, was of considerable significance,” the ITF tribunal wrote.

“This was a deliberate decision, not a mistake. Taken together with the evidence that over a period of 3 years she did not disclose her use of Mildronate to her coach, trainer, physio, nutritionist or any medical adviser she consulted through the WTA, the facts are only consistent with a deliberate decision to keep secret from the anti-doping authorities the fact that she was using Mildronate in competition.”

While the tribunal did not accept the ITF’s assertion that Sharapova had intentionally violated the rules, it did place sole responsibility with her.