Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/David Gray
Suspended from the sport.
BENCHED

Maria Sharapova is banned from tennis for two years for taking a performance-enhancing drug

By Katherine Ellen Foley

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) doesn’t take cheating lightly—even if it might have been unintentional.

Today (June 8), a three-person panel from the ITF banned five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova from professional tennis for two years after she tested positive for meldonium, a drug that increases blood circulation. She will also have to forfeit any of the ranking points she accumulated from the 2016 Australian Open, as well as her prize money for making it to the semi-finals of the tournament.

Sharapova first announced in March that she had failed a drug test, and said she’d been taking the substance for 10 years for health reasons. Meldonium was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances in January. Sharapova said that she had received an email from WADA with the updated list of banned substances, but didn’t open the attachment.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, works by changing the fuel that cells use for energy. It blocks cells from taking in fatty acids and allows them to use carbohydrates instead. Turning carbs into energy requires less oxygen, which means that the heart and blood can do less work. It’s helpful for patients with poor circulation, but also has been used by elite endurance athletes across a wide range of sports.

Sharapova’s suspension will be backdated to begin on Jan. 26, 2016, when she first submitted her urine sample for testing. The ITF had been considering a four-year ban, but eased up on her penalty because of “her prompt admission of her violation.”

In a statement on her Facebook page, Sharapova said that she plans to appeal the ruling. “I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” she wrote.