Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference.
Photo by Robyn Beck—AFP via Getty Images
By Sports Illustrated
June 8, 2016

Maria Sharapova has received a two-year ban for her doping violation, the ITF announced Wednesday.

The ban will reportedly backdate to January, but Sharapova plans to appeal, she said in a statement.

The report released by the ITF tribunal noted that a two-year suspension was imposed because the tribunal had determined Sharapova did not intentionally violate ITF doping rules. If it had been determined that her actions were intentional, she would have been suspended for four years.

“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” Sharapova said. “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.”

Sharapova was provisionally suspended after testing positive for the banned substance Meldonium at the Australian Open. Meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances on Jan. 1. The five-time Grand Slam champion said she had been taking the substance for years to combat magnesium deficiency, heart problems and a family history of diabetes.

In April, WADA announced that positive tests before March 1 that showed the presence of less than one microgram of Meldonium would be acceptable and athletes would not be punished. Sharapova’s Meldonium levels were never disclosed.

On May 26, Sharapova was one of four Russian players named to compete in the women’s singles in Brazil. She won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Russia has seven players in the world’s top 56 but can only send four players.

More than 200 athletes tested positive for Meldonium after it was added to the banned list. The high number of positive tests raised questions about how long the drug stayed within an athlete’s system, as several athletes claimed to have stopped taking the endurance-boosting drug by January.

The next most-notable case behind Sharapova was that of Olympic hopeful and Russian swimmer Yulia Edimova. She had her suspension lifted by FINA, swimming’s governing body.

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