TENNIS superstar Maria Sharapova has been slammed with a two-year ban from professional tennis for using the drug meldonium.
The original incident took place in January, when Sharapova provided a urine sample shortly after a quarter final match at the Australian Open and tested positive for the drug, which had been added to the list of banned substances in the sport at the outset of 2016.
Several days after the news broke, Sharapova held a press conference where she admitted that she had been using the drug for various years for health problems. She claimed that her mistake had been an honest one, as she had received the email with the list of outlawed substances but had failed to read it.
After receiving the news of her ban, Sharapova took to Facebook, where she described the suspension as “unfairly harsh.” The International Tennis Federation had originally recommended a four-year suspension, but this was discarded as an option after the three-person panel unanimously agreed that her violation had been unintentional.
Sharapova claimed that she would immediately appeal the decision, saying: “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.”
Sharapova, who burst onto the international tennis scene as a plucky 17-year-old when she defeated Serena Williams in a shock upset at Wimbledon in 2004, is one of the most recognisable athletes in the world. She has won five Grand Slam Tournaments and has an estimated net worth of $90 million (€78,930,060).