Following on from her appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Maria Sharapova has had her two year ban reduced to fifteen months. The Russian five-time grand slam winner initially received the two year ban after testing positive for a substance “Meldonium” at this year’s Australian Open. She had been taking the drug for a number of years on the advice of a family doctor, the drug also known as “Mildronite” was only placed on the prohibited list at the beginning of 2016.
The CAS panel accepted that the athlete did not exhibit significant fault due to her usage of Meldonium for ten years prior to her positive test, the lack of a specific warning from WADA, the ITF or the WTA about the change in regulation of the substance and her responsible public acknowledgement following her ban.
Since hearing the news, Sharapova has criticised the ITF for “Making an example of her.” Given the mass exposure of performance enhancing drug usage in many sports, the organisations ruling of two years was considered excessive given the length of bans given to players such as Troicki and Cilic. This case certainly raises the question whether or not negligence is an acceptable excuse and where to draw the line between delivering a fair sentence and bringing down the axe hard to prevent future violations.
The upper hand certainly seems to be lying with Sharapova following the decision. The former world no.1 has just left the top 100 rankings but is eligible to play again in April 2017, in time for the French Open where she is twice a champion. Her racket sponsor Head congratulated her reduction having stayed loyal since the original ban. Other sponsors such as Nike and Porsche have sat on the fence waiting for the results of the appeal.
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