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Maria Sharapova wins CAS appeal

4th October 2016

Morgan Sports Law acts for tennis star, Maria Sharapova, in her successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”).

Summary

CAS 2016/A/4643 Maria Sharapova v International Tennis Federation

On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova underwent a doping control test at the Australian Open. On 2 March 2016, Ms Sharapova was informed that sample had tested positive for meldonium (commonly known as ‘mildronate’).

On 6 June 2016, the Independent Tribunal of the International Tennis Federation (“IADT”) suspended Ms Sharapova for two years for committing a violation of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. Following that decision, Ms Sharapova instructed Mike Morgan of Morgan Sports Law to assist her with her appeal to the CAS. 

The CAS has today confirmed that Ms Sharapova’s appeal against the decision of the IADT has been partially upheld. Ms Sharapova’s period of ineligibility has been reduced from two years down to fifteen months, backdated to 26 January 2016.  This means that Ms Sharapova will be free to resume her competition schedule from April 2017. 

Of particular note, the CAS found that Ms Sharapova’s fault for the anti-doping rule violation was “not significant” and noted as follows:

“100. The Panel wishes to emphasize that based on the evidence, the Player did not endeavour to mask or hide her use of Mildronate and was in fact open about it to many in her entourage and based on a doctor's recommendation, that she took the substance with the good faith belief that it was appropriate and compliant with the relevant rules and her anti-doping obligations, as it was over a long period of her career, and that she was not clearly informed by the relevant anti-doping authorities of the change in the rules. After its de novo review here, the Panel has determined it does not agree with many of the conclusions of the Tribunal, except as otherwise specifically indicated herein.

101. Finally, the Panel wishes to point out that the case it heard, and the award it renders, was not about an athlete who cheated. It was only about the degree of fault that can be imputed to a player for her failure to make sure that the substance contained in a product she had been legally taking over a long period, and for most of the time on the basis of a doctor's prescription, remained in compliance with the TADP and WADC. No question of intent to violate the TADP or WADC was before this Panel: under no circumstances, therefore, can the Player be considered to be an "intentional doper".“

Mike Morgan of Morgan Sports Law represented Ms Sharapova, alongside her US-based attorneys, Howard Jacobs and John Haggerty. 

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