Tennis champion Maria Sharapova was banned from tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive for the drug meldonium.
Sharapova, 29, said she will appeal the suspension portion of the ruling.
During the Australian Open in January, the Russian tennis player tested positive for the banned drug meldonium, a metabolic modulator that is also known as Mildronate.
In March, Sharapova announced to the public that she had tested positive to the substance and accepted “full responsibility.” She had taken the drug since 2006, due to a family history of heart issues and diabetes with a doctor’s guidance, Sharapova said. According to Reuters, the drug is sold in only a few Eastern European nations, but wasn’t banned by the International Tennis Federation until Jan. 1, 2016. Players were sent the list of banned substances, but Sharapova said she had not read the list.
An independent three-person trial determined that while Sharapova had not intended to cheat, she bears “sole responsibility” and banned her from the sport for two years. Her results from the Australian Open will also be disqualified and she must forfeit her ranking points and prize money.
In a Facebook post, Sharapova issued a statement on the International Tennis Federation’s decision:
“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.”
“I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” Sharapova said.
The Women’s Tennis Association, the governing body for women’s tennis, issued a statement of support for the process and their hopes for a resolution.
— WTA (@WTA) June 8, 2016
Tennis great Billie Jean King offered words of support, stressing it was in Sharapova’s character to accept responsibility.
Thinking about @MariaSharapova with today's news. She accepted responsibility early on and that is a big part of her true character
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 8, 2016
Sharapova has not played since the Australian Open, and if the current ruling stands, she would sit out the 2018 Australian Open as well, according to ESPN.