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Sharapova to appeal two-year doping ban

Associated Press Associated Press 14/06/2016

Maria Sharapova has appealed against her two-year doping ban to the highest court in sports, and an expedited ruling will be issued in July.

Sharapova filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week seeking to overturn or reduce the suspension imposed by the International Tennis Federation.

The Russian tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January, taking it before each match at that tournament even though the substance was banned at the start of 2016.

The court said both sides had agreed to an "expedited procedure" that would allow the court to issue its ruling by July 18, at the latest.

So if the suspension is thrown out, Sharapova would be eligible to compete at the Rio Games, which open August 5.

"Maria looks forward to CAS hearing her appeal and hopes she'll be able to play again," said Sharapova's lawyer, John Haggerty.

"The ITF tribunal concluded she had no intent to do anything wrong and she thinks a two-year suspension is unfairly harsh."

Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion and former No.1-ranked player, announced last week she would appeal against her suspension.

An independent three-person panel appointed by the ITF said Sharapova didn't intend to cheat because she didn't know meldonium was banned, but she bore "sole responsibility" and "very significant fault" for the positive test.

The panel also said various elements of Sharapova's case "inevitably lead to the conclusion" she took the substance "for the purpose of enhancing her performance".

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it would not file an appeal to CAS.

WADA could have petitioned for either a harsher or more lenient punishment.

Sharapova was provisionally suspended by the ITF in early March, shortly before she announced at a news conference in Los Angeles that she failed a doping test.

Sharapova said then she was not aware that WADA barred athletes from using meldonium, also known as mildronate, as of January 1.

The 29-year-old Sharapova's ban is due to end on January 25, 2018, which would keep her out of eight Grand Slam tournaments, along with the Olympics.

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