Maria Sharapova says the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) decision to reduce her doping ban from two years to 15 months has provided her with “one of my happiest days”.
The Russian was initially suspended until January 2018, after testing positive for the banned substance meldonium at this year’s Australian Open.
However, Sharapova claimed to be unaware that meldonium had been added to WADA’s prohibited list at the start of 2016 and an appeal to CAS has resulted in her sanction being reduced by nine months.
Sharapova will therefore be free to return to the court in April 2017 and said in a statement: “I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learned about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days, as I found out I can return to tennis in April.
“In so many ways, I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back.
“Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court.”
The 29-year-old says that her case should be a lesson to the International Tennis Federation and other anti-doping agencies to ensure other players avoid a similar fate.
The statement added: “I have learned from this, and I hope the ITF has as well. CAS concluded that ‘the Panel has determined it does not agree with many of the conclusions of the [ITF] Tribunal…’
“I have taken responsibility from the very beginning for not knowing that the over-the-counter supplement I had been taking for the last 10 years was no longer allowed.
“But I also learned how much better other Federations were at notifying their athletes of the rule change, especially in Eastern Europe where Mildronate [another name for meldonium] is commonly taken by millions of people.
“Now that this process is over, I hope the ITF and other relevant tennis anti-doping authorities will study what these other Federations did, so that no other tennis player will have to go through what I went through.”
Sharapova also she had a message of thanks to her fans.
“And to my fans, (Hello SharaFamily!), I thank you so much for living and breathing so many of these tough months together,” she said.
“During this time, I have learned the true meaning of a fan and I am so fortunate to have had your support.
“I’m coming back soon and I can’t wait.”
Reacting to the news, WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement: “The TADP has a comprehensive and fair process in place and we support the final result. We are pleased that the process is now at completion and can look forward to seeing Maria back on court in 2017.”