Tennis star Maria Sharapova who tested positive for meldonium after a drug test at the Australian Open in January, has been suspended from playing tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation on Wednesday. The 29-year-old was one of tennis’ biggest stars, having won five Grand Slam titles throughout her career and being the highest paid female athlete for the past 11 years. Sharapova, who says she had been taking the drug since 2006 for various health problems, claimed she had not read an email she received in December notifying her that the substance had been officially banned. The violation carries a suspension of up to four years, but after a two-day hearing in May, the ITF tribunal ruled that “the contravention of the anti-doping rules was not intentional as Ms. Sharapova did not appreciate that Mildronate contained a substance prohibited from 1 January 2016. However, she does bear sole responsibility for the contravention, and very significant fault, in failing to take any steps to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible.” For this reason, the group decided to “only” suspend her for two years, backdating it to January 26, which means she would be allowed to officially return to tennis at midnight on Jan. 25, 2018. The tennis star released an official statement however, claiming that she would appeal the decision as she could not accept the “unfairly harsh two-year suspension.” Late last month, Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev named Sharapova as one of the four players who will travel to Rio to compete in the 2016 Olympics. It’s unclear what impact the suspension will have on her possibly competing in the Summer Games.
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