By Adebayo Williams
The court of arbitration for sport has reduced Maria Sharapova’s two-year ban to 15 months. The Russian had been banned by the International Tennis Federation in June for taking meldonium, a banned substance. In reducing the ban, however, the Cas panel found that Sharapova’s degree of fault fell short of the “significant” level determined by the ITF and also said it did not agree with many of its decisions. With Sharapova’s ban having been backdated to when she tested positive for meldonium during the Australian Open, she will be free to return to competition on 26 April. When she originally revealed she had failed the test at a highly charged press conference in March, there had been speculation over whether she would ever play again.
The player’s camp has described the decision as a victory saying the verdict has shown ITF’s bias in handing out the two-year ban. The original ruling showed how her agent, Max Eisenbud, had failed to check whether meldonium had been added to the list because he had split up with his wife and therefore not taken his annual vacation, on which he claimed to have habitually made the checks.
The decision of the court means the player will be ready to compete in next year’s French Open.