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Maria Sharapova plans to appeal ‘unfairly harsh’ two-year suspension for doping

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on March 7.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

Maria Sharapova has been suspended two years after testing positive for a banned substance in January, the International Tennis Federation announced Wednesday.

In its ruling, the organization said it had determined that the five-time Grand Slam champion hadn’t taken meldonium with the intention of cheating, but that nonetheless she "does bear sole responsibility for the contravention, and very significant fault."

Sharapova, 29, has said she first was prescribed the drug for medical reasons in 2006 and that she did not realize it had been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of Jan. 1 this year.

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But the ITF said in its ruling that Sharapova concealed her used of the substance rather than seeking advice from anti-doping authorities, doctors or others.

"She is the sole author of her own misforture," the ruling stated.

In a statement released on Facebook later Wednesday morning, Sharapova accepted responsibility for the positive doping test but stated that the length of the punishment was excessive. She could have been banned for up to 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,” she wrote. “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.”

The former world No. 1 player added that she will immediately appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible,” she said.

Sharapova was provisionally suspended by the ITF in March, when the positive test was made public. Her case was heard by a three-person panel. Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, said she spoke at the hearing.

The WTA said in a statement: "It is important at all times for players to be aware of the rules and to follow them. In this case, Maria has taken responsibility for her mistake from the outset. The WTA supports the process that the ITF and Maria have followed."

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