Cape Town - The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has cut Maria Sharapova's ban for taking meldonium from two years to 15 months.
Sharapova test positive for the banned substance at the beginning of the year at the Australian Open.
She maintained she took the medication for medical reasons and that it was prescribed to her in 2006. Meldonium is usually used to treat heart conditions.
The drug had only been added to the World Doping Agency's list of banned substances from 1 January 2016.
After CAS made the announcement reducing the ban, Sharapova released the following 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.
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 ten 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 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.
And to my fans, (Hello SharaFamily!), I thank you so much for living and breathing so many of these tough months together. 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.”
Sharapova will now be able to return to competitive tennis in April 2017, in time for the French Open.