The ITF Tribunal has finished processing Maria Sharapova‘s anti-doping rule violation and their conclusion is that the Russian did not intentionally break the anti-doping rules by taking Mildronate, however, they issued a two-year ban, the maximum suspension for an unintentional offence.
The tennis star commented on the decision on her Facebook page:
Today with their decision of a two year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional. 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.
So, the ban could have been four years, had her violation been intentional, while there was no scenario in which Sharapova could have received a suspension of less than one year. However, she received the maximum ban for unintentional violation and she’s in distress about it. Hence, this is not over, as Sharapova is going to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. 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. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
That’s Sharapova’s side of the story. However, the ITF Tribunal says the following in the official Decision:
The manner of its use, on match days and when undertaking intensive training, is only consistent with an intention to boost her energy levels. It may be that she genuinely believed that Mildronate had some general beneficial effect on her health but the manner in which the medication was taken, its concealment from the anti-doping authorities, her failure to disclose it even to her own team, and the lack of any medical justification must inevitably lead to the conclusion that she took Mildronate for the purpose of enhancing her performance.
Explaining the reason behind the two-year ban, the ITF Tribunal states:
On the findings of the fact set out above the player cannot prove that she exercised any degree of diligence, let alone utmost caution, to ensure that her ingestion of Mildronate did not constitute a contravention. To the contrary her concealment from the anti-doping authorities and her team of the fact that she was regularly using Mildronate in competition for performance enhancement was a very serious breach of her duty to comply with the rules.
Whether Sharapova will manage to decrease the length of the ban or not, her suspension counts from January 26th, the day her positive sample was taken during the 2016 Australian Open. She is automatically disqualified in respect of her results at the Grand Slam, forfeits 430 ranking points and prize money of AUS$281,633.