“Maria Sharapova now knows she will come back to tennis nine months earlier than her initial two-year ban for testing positive for the banned substance Meldonium set her out for.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced yesterday that Sharapova’s two-year ban has been reduced to 15 months, meaning she is eligible to play again on April 25, 2017.
An Independent Tribunal appointed under Article 8.1.1 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme originally found that Sharapova bore significant fault for her violation, because (among other things) she had failed to put in place an adequate system to check for changes made each year to the Prohibited List. It therefore imposed a period of ineligibility of two years, backdated to commence on 26 January 2016. Her results at the 2016 Australian Open were disqualified, and the ranking points and prize money that she won at that event were forfeited.
Sharapova appealed that decision to CAS on the basis that she bore No Significant Fault or Negligence for her anti-doping rule violation and therefore her ban should be reduced from two years to “time served” (i.e., she should be free to start competing again from the date of the CAS panel’s decision).
Following a hearing on 7 and 8 September 2016, the CAS panel found that Sharapova had a reduced perception of the risk that she took while using Mildronate, because (a) she had used Mildronate for around ten years without any anti-doping issue, (b) she had consulted the Russian doctor who prescribed the Mildronate for medical reasons, not to enhance her performance, and (c) she had received no specific warning about the change in status of meldonium from WADA, the ITF, or the WTA. In addition, the CAS panel considered that it was reasonable for Ms. Sharapova to entrust the checking of the Prohibited List each year to her agent.
However, the CAS panel found that Ms. Sharapova was at fault for (a) failing to give her agent adequate instructions as to how to carry out the important task of checking the Prohibited List, and (b) failing to supervise and control the actions of her agent in carrying out that task (specifically the lack of any procedure for reporting or follow-up verification to make sure that her agent had actually discharged his duty). The CAS panel also noted Ms. Sharapova’s failure to disclose her use of meldonium on her doping control forms.
Taking all of these circumstances into account, the CAS panel determined that, although Ms. Sharapova was at fault, her plea of No Significant Fault or Negligence should be upheld, triggering a discretion to reduce the otherwise applicable two year sanction by up to 50 per cent. Based on its analysis of Ms. Sharapova’s degree of fault, the CAS panel decided that the sanction should be reduced in this case to 15 months.
The decision means Sharapova will be available to play in three of the four Grand Slams starting with the French Open which starts May 28.”
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