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Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova has been banned from tennis for two years, the International Tennis Federation announced on Wednesday.
Sharapova admitted in March that she had tested positive for meldonium ahead of the Australian Open.The 29-year-old said she had continued to take meldonium even after receiving multiple emails warning that it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances for 2016 because she knew it by its trade name, Mildronate.
While a two-year suspension indicates the ITF found she had not cheated intentionally, Sharapova will still miss the Olympics and be unable to play competitively until January 2018.
Along with the suspension, Sharapova will be docked the $375,000 and ranking points she earned for reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open.
Moments after the ITF announcement, the five-time Grand Slam winner posted to her Facebook page and said she would appeal the ruling.
“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” Sharapova wrote. “I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
According to the 33-page ruling, the crux of Sharapova’s argument was that the ITF had not done a good enough job to notify her that meldonium had been added to the banned substance list.
In May, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation hinted at a serious punishment coming for Sharapova, telling the Russian media it was “highly doubtful” Sharapova would play future tournaments. This came just one month after he had said he felt confident Sharapova would represent Russia in August at the Rio Olympics.
Sharapova had stayed relatively quiet since the news of her failed drug test. During the French Open, she was seen on several occasions wearing a Zara T-shirt shirt that read “Back in 5 minutes.”
My first credential in a while and Zara tshirts got jokes ???????? pic.twitter.com/U7hXX6QPul
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 24, 2016
While the suspension is less severe than the maximum five-year punishment some expected, a two-year ban from the sport could still very possibly mark the end of Sharapova’s career, considering both her age and recent injuries. This year, Forbes reported that Sharapova was the second-highest paid woman athlete, behind Serena Williams.