Maria Sharapova Responds to 'Unfairly Harsh' 2-Year Suspension Following Doping Scandal
Maria Sharapova has no plans to sideline herself for two years -- despite an International Tennis Federation ruling to do just that following her doping scandal.
The 28-year-old tennis star was suspended for two years by the ITF on Wednesday, after she admitted to failing a drug test on March 7. Sharapova called the suspension "unfairly harsh" and announced plans to appeal it.
"Today with their decision of a two year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional," she wrote on Facebook.
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Sharapova tested positive for banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open earlier this year. She claimed at a press conference that she simply made a mistake by continuing to take the anti-ischemic drug Mildronate after it was banned in January.
"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," she wrote, noting she did not seek treatment from her doctor to obtain a performance enhancing substance.
"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 went on. "The tribunal... agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years."
The five-time major champion also announced plans to "immediately appeal" the suspension.
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Though Sharapova has some qualms with her sport's ruling body, she used the opportunity to thank her fans for sticking by her side throughout the controversy.
"I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world," she wrote. "I have read your letters. I have read your social media posts and your love and support has gotten me through these tough days. 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."
Companies like Nike and TAG Heuer suspended endorsement deals with Sharapova amid the doping scandal, but the Olympian did receive support from an unlikely source: Serena Williams.
"She's always showed courage in everything that she's done. And this is no different," the longtime rival said of Sharapova.
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