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AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
FRS Tennis

Maria Sharapova receives two-year suspension from ITF

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

After months of waiting, the ITF has handed down their ruling in the Maria Sharapova meldonium suspension case: the Russian-born tennis icon received a two-year suspension, retroactive to the failed test at the Australian Open. That means Sharapova, who turned 29 in April, would not be eligible to return until January 2018, or in more practical terms, after the 2018 Australian Open.

After scouring the 33-page document elaborating on the details of Sharapova’s hearing, here the critical things to take from it:

-The ITF unanimous deemed Sharapova did not act intentionally in violating the rules. An intentional violation would have resulted in a four-year ban. As a reminder, Sharapova has been taking meldonium since 2006, for which she claimed was due to health issues such as constant illness and family history of diabetes. Meldonium became a prohibited substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list as of this year across many sports, despite shaky evidence around its benefits and how long it remains in the body.

As part of a Facebook statement, Sharapova immediately announced she will appeal for a shorter ban.

-Sharapova vacates her 2016 Australian Open results and prize money. Already out of the top 25 due to missing the spring swing and the clay season, those vacated 430 quarterfinal points from Australia will move her to the mid-30s. She could be outside the top 100 once she drops her semifinal points from Wimbledon. As a result of her missing the Rio Olympics, Ekaterina Makarova will be the fourth Russian singles player.

-While the ITF unanimously ruled the doping violation was not intentional, there are some strange details that could cast doubt, chiefly this portion of the ITF’s document on the limited number of people in Sharapova’s camp aware of what she was taking:

-Mr. Eisenbud is Max Eisenbud, Sharapova’s well-known, longtime agent. His contribution also contributes to the strange case, as he claims that his divorce meant he did not take his annual trip to the Caribbean, the time he would usually go over the list of banned substances:

-Potentially the part that will draw the most scrutiny? That Sharapova’s original doctor suggested she take a higher dosage before “games of special importance”:

-Perhaps the main takeaway from all of this is that while the ITF officially declares Sharapova’s violation was unintentional, their statements suggest otherwise:

This final paragraph from the document almost reads like a “mic drop”:

Why did Sharapova conceal her usage of an allowed substance from nearly everyone around her? Why would her agent, someone outside the medical field, be the one to check the banned substance list? If it’s not a PED, why was she advised to take higher dosages before big matches? Why did she split from the doctor who prescribed meldonium (among 30 prescriptions!) for her, and how did she obtain it after that? What is the five-time Grand Slam champion’s future in the sport?

Unfortunately, this ruling provided as many questions as it did answers.

Maria Sharapova receives two-year suspension from ITF

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