Stuttgart (Germany) – The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Wednesday said five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been banned from tennis for two years after testing positive to a newly-banned substance.
ITF said in a statement that it had imposed a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing however on January 26, the day of her test.
Sharapova immediately said she would appeal the potentially career-ending sanction.
“I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that is why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible,’’ she wrote in a statement on her facebook site.
The infraction occurred at the Australian Open, with the 29-year-old testing positive for meldonium, a heart medication which had been declared illegal a few weeks earlier by anti-doping chiefs.
The ITF provisionally banned the Russian in March after she came out with an announcement of her positive January test.
Meanwhile Sharapova said that she had been prescribed meldonium for a decade by her personal physician.
Anti-doping officials have confessed that there is no scientific evidence yet as to how long it takes the newly illegal substance to leave the body.
However the medicine was declared illegal from the start of January.
The former highest-earning woman in all of sports reportedly produced very low levels of the substance.
Sharapova said in March that she was unaware of email and other electronic communications from the ITF which warned that meldonium would become illegal from Jan. 1.
“The ITF accepts that she did not know that Mildronate [meldonium’s trade name] contained a prohibited substance.
“She however argues that in taking the medication she knowingly and manifestly disregarded the risk of contravening the anti-doping rules, and thus committed an intentional violation,’’ the ITF said in an explanatory statement.
It added that the player had admitted to some fault but that she placed blame on the organisation for not taking reasonable steps to publicise the change to its doping rules.