by Jason Howard Kelly
An independent tribunal has suspended Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova from play for a period of two years after she failed a drug test, the International Tennis Federation says.
The five-time Grand Slam champion admitted in March that she tested positive for meldonium, a substance banned beginning early this year, during a drug test at the Australian Open, as we reported.
The International Tennis Federation has laid down the hammer on Maria Sharapova after she failed a drug test back in January of this year. Two years seems like a really long time for a suspension, but it is key to remember that there are only four major tournaments in a given year for tennis players. There is the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May, Wimbledon in June, and the U.S. Open in August. This means that Sharapova will miss a total of eight tournaments over the next two years.
Obviously, no one is going to shed any tears for Sharapova since she brought the suspension on herself by doping. Nevertheless, the landscape of female tennis took a negative hit today by losing one of its most popular and recognizable stars for two whole years.
The suspension is bad enough news as it is, but made even worse by the fact that it comes just a day after Sharapova was unseated by her rival, Serena Williams, as the highest-paid female athlete. That was a title that Sharapova held for 11 years, and she wasn’t dethroned by just any female athlete, she was dethroned by the biggest rival of her career.
Sharapova will be 31 when she is eligible to return to competition. Hopefully this is not the last we’ve seen of her on the court, but returning to top form after a two-year layoff is going to be the biggest challenge of Sharapova’s career. We’ll see if she’s up for it.