Maria Sharapova's legal advisers are seeking to secure a ban of less than a year after the pro tennis player tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open this year.
Sharapova admitted in a press conference this week that she had been taking meldonium for the last ten years for medical reasons under a different name, but stressed that she was legally taking the drug for the majority of that time.
Meldonium was officially added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of prohibited substances at the start of this year and although Sharapova's team were informed about this via email, she said she was unaware of the change. In fact, WADA apparently made five attempts to alert Sharapova of the significant update.
It is now likely that the five-time Grand Slam winner could face a minimum ban of up to two years, but her legal team have said they will contest for a ban of less than a year.
Sharapova's defence are hoping that her case will be successful based on the precedents set in 2013 by the cases of other tennis players who had suspensions overturned by the Court of Arbitration.
Victor Troicki had a ban reduced from 18 to 12 months while Marin Cilic had a nine month ban cut down to four months. The second case established a precedent for for judging degrees of fault on a player’s part, which could prove favourable for Sharapova's case.
A member of her legal team told the New York Times:
Maria and I are looking at all our options. I think there’s a misunderstanding that Maria took mildronate [the name by which Sharapova knew meldonium] and only mildronate, and that was to address all of her medical conditions. She took mildronate and a number of other medicines. Maria has already acknowledged she should have known. She makes no excuses for missing it.
The use of meldonium for therapeutic purposes, is one of the other arguments which Sharapova's lawyers are considering to help build her case. All this despite the increasing evidence that seems to be stacking up against Sharapova.
Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas / SPORTSFILE