The International Tennis Federation announced on Wednesday morning that former women's No.1 Maria Sharapova would be banned from tennis for two years due to a failed drug test following the Australian Open.
Sharapova will appeal the ban. Her failed test came to light in March when the ITF revealed she tested positive in January for the drug meldonium. Typically prescribed for short-term use as a heart medicine, it is banned for its use as a metabolic modulator. Meldonium was added to the ITF's list of banned substances in October of 2015. In Sharapova's March press conference she revealed she'd been using the drug since 2006.
The ITF's ruling means its their belief that Sharapova took the drug without knowing it was a performance enhancing drug, otherwise a longer suspension (or possible lifetime ban) would have been handed down. In addition, the ruling added that her swift admittance to the usage played a role in their leniency.
"due to her prompt admission of her violation, that period of ineligibility should be back-dated."
Sharapova's ban effectively began on Jan. 26, when she was eliminated from the Australian Open. In addition she will be forced to forfeit prize money and ranking points she earned during the tournament.
In response to the ITF's ruling Sharapova made a statement on her Facebook page that she will be appealing the ban.
"While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension. The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport."
At age 29 it's unclear how big of an impact a two-year ban would have on Sharapova's future in tennis -- but a return to top-level play at 31 seems unlikely. Now it will be up to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to decide what happens.