Maria Sharapova appeals against 'unfairly harsh' two-year drugs ban

Russia's Sharapova reacts during a news conference after losing her quarter-final match against Williams of the U.S. at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park

Maria Sharapova has lodged an appeal against her two-year doping ban – and wants a swift resolution to the legal process, with a view to competing at the Olympics in August.

Last week, Sharapova, 29, was suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for two years for failing a drugs test. She tested positive for the banned substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January, and her suspension was announced by the ITF on 8 June.

On Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – the highest court in sport – confirmed that Sharapova is seeking to overturn or reduce the suspension, and said both sides agreed to an “expedited procedure”. The court is scheduled to issue its ruling by 18 July, which means that if the suspension is thrown out, Sharapova could compete at the Rio Games, for which she has been provisionally selected by the Russian Olympic team.

CAS said it has not decided where to hold a hearing or not.

Sharapova failed a mandatory drugs test after her quarter-final defeat by Serena Williams in Melbourne on 26 January. She insisted that she took the drug before it was banned and for health reasons only, on the advice of her doctor over a 10-year period.

An ITF tribunal found that while she had not intentionally contravened anti-doping rules, she bore sole responsibility for the substance being in her system during the Australian Open, and for her failure to notice that the drug had been added to the banned list.

“She is the sole author of her own misfortune,” the tribunal said.

Sharapova is banned until 26 January 2018, ruling her out of this summer’s Olympics and the next seven grand slam events.

If she had been found to have deliberately violated anti-doping rules, she could have faced the maximum four-year ban. Olympics and the next seven grand slam events. If she had been found to have deliberately violated anti-doping rules, she could have faced the maximum four-year ban.

A statement from Sharapova’s lawyer said the ITF’s ruling demonstrated that she “did not intend to violate the rules”.

It added she was given an “unfairly harsh suspension because she is such a famous athlete and they wanted to make an example out of her”.

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