Russian tennis supremo Maria Sharapova says she will be appealing a two-year ban for doping imposed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Wednesday.
Sharapova, who turned 29 in April, made the statement in a post on her Facebook page:
The star tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australia Open in January.
In a statement, the ITF said the five-times Grand Slam champion's ban would be backdated to January 26 this year.
It said the two-year ban will only end at midnight on January 25, 2018, which is after the Australian Open.
The Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has found that Maria Sharapova committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation https://t.co/xFcbXqCmZD
— ITF (@ITF_Tennis) June 8, 2016
This means her results and prize money from the Australian Open, where she reached the quarterfinals, would be cancelled out.
In her statement, Sharapova said an independent tribunal in London held in May had found that she had not intentionally violated anti-doping rules.
A 33-page report of the tribunal's findings said: "The ITF accepts that the player did not engage in conduct that she knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation," but it rejected her assertion that there was no "significant" fault on her part.
"She was the sole author of her own misfortune," it said.
On its website, the ITF said the ban, which could have been as long as four years, had been backdated due to Sharapova's "prompt admission" that she took the substance.
Wada later issued a short statement saying it would review the decision before deciding whether to use its independent right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
WADA statement regarding Maria Sharapova case: https://t.co/IiRVWUoBv8
— WADA (@wada_ama) June 8, 2016
The two-year ban means Sharapova will not be eligible to play until she's 30, and raises the question of whether she will ever play again.
Major Sponsors To Continue Relationship
The ban will have an enormous impact on Sharapova's earning potential.
Her career earnings amount to $36 million while her off-court earnings, according to Forbes, are around $200 million.
Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer cut its ties after the news of her doping violation while other sponsors such as Porsche distanced themselves from her.
But her two biggest sponsors, Nike and Head Tennis, say they will continue their relationship with the tennis star.
In a statement, Nike said, "The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules. Maria has always made her position clear, has apologised for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban.
"Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her."
Chairman of Head Tennis Johan Eliasch, said in a statement on Facebook, "We believe, based on the facts and circumstances provided to us, this is a flawed decision. Head will continue to support Miss Sharapova."
She stunned the sporting world when she publicly announced that she had tested positive for meldonium, a component of a product named Mildronate which she has taken since 2006 for health issues.
At the time Sharapova, the highest-profile tennis player to fail an anti-doping test, said she had made "a huge mistake" in failing to realise that continuing to take Mildronate would be a violation of the anti-doping code.
Meldonium was added to Wada's list of banned substances at the start of the year after mounting evidence that it boosted blood flow and enhanced athletic performance.
Around 180 athletes have tested positive for the drug, manufactured in Latvia and common throughout Eastern Europe, since January.
The tribunal found that Sharapova had taken Mildronate before each of her five matches at this year's Australian Open where she lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
It rejected Sharapova's argument that the ITF should have informed her that she and a number of other tennis players had tested positive for meldonium in 2015 before it was added to the banned list.
Twitter has also been abuzz with many tweets of support for Sharapova with three main hashtags: #IStandWithMaria, #BackIn5Minutes and #LetMariaPlay.
#IStandWithMaria was by far the one which trended the most and continues to do well.
It originated from #BackIn5Minutes, which created a frenzy after Sharapova was seen wearing a t-shirt bearing the words "Back In 5 Minutes" on her Twitter profile.
This prompted her fans from around the world, both male and female, to buy the t-shirt, wear it and tweet the image as a message of support.
— Joe Mike B. (@JMBar2lata) June 7, 2016
— Chavita bien (@Sabrina_Beta) June 9, 2016
— mikeyOdle (@MikeyOdle) June 3, 2016
— Lesly S (@leslyVAfan) June 3, 2016
— Misha (@MishaSakina) May 30, 2016
— RJ dela Fuente (@RJdelaFuente) June 6, 2016
— Medina (@RicardoMs_45) June 9, 2016
— Ylenia Carelli (@YleniaJoCa) June 8, 2016
Sharapova has 35 WTA singles titles and has won all four of the sport's Grand Slam titles.