Maria Sharapova was banned from participating in professional tennis for 2 years, starting in January 2016, due to her March announcement of a positive drug test for meldonium and her subsequent admission that she had been taking the substance for over a decade.
Here is a useful summary of the Sharapova saga from tennis.com:
In 2005, an 18-year-old Sharapova was suffering from various cold-related ailments and upper-abdomen pain. Her father, Yuri, took her to Dr. Anatoly Skalny in Moscow. Dr. Skalny prescribed “a detailed medicinal and nutritional regime which at the outset comprised about 18 medications and supplements” to boost her immune system. One of those medications was Mildronate—whose active ingredient is Meldonium—which he said should be taken before competing.
For six years, Sharapova followed his regimen. By the end of 2012, though, having “found the taking of lots of pills overwhelming,” she hired a nutritionist and left Dr. Skalny’s care. Sharapova continued to use three of the substances he recommended, one of which was Mildronate, without telling her nutritionist, her coach, her trainer, her physio, her doctor in California, or any WTA medical personnel.
“Nor was the use of Mildronate disclosed to the anti-doping authorities on any of the doping control forms which Ms. Sharapova signed in 2014 and 2015.” According to testimony, only Yuri and Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud, knew that she took 500 mg of Mildronate on match days.
The tribunal, in its boldest statement, flatly contradicted Sharapova’s assertion that she took the drug for medical reasons.
“The manner in which [Meldonium] was taken,” it concluded, “its concealment from the anti-doping authorities, her failure to disclose it even to her own team, and the lack of any medical justification must inevitably lead to the conclusion that she took Mildronate for the purpose of enhancing her performance.”I suspect the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) will reduce the ban from two years after Sharapova's appeal but WADA has definitely made a statement by going big on penalizing the most prominent female athlete in the world for a doping violation. Sharapova turned 29 on April 19th so if she served the full ban she would not be able to compete again until she is almost 31. Already she has ceded her longtime title as the world's highest-paid female athlete to Serena Williams. Would Sharapova retire if her appeal is unsuccessful at reducing the length of the ban? Marin Cilic was initially banned for 9 months and then it was reduced to the four months he had already served. When he came back from his suspension he was very motivated to play his best tennis and went on to win his first and only major (2014 US Open). Only time will tell how the Sharapova saga will unfold....