It is definite that Maria Sharapova will not be representing Russia in the Rio Olympics after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) disqualified her for two years with the sentence commencing on January 26, 2016.
The 29-year-old Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, had admitted to failing a dope test for meldonium during the 2016 Australian Open tournament, a substance that was only banned starting this year.
But despite being meted a suspension for using the drug, Sharapova?was named into Russia?s provisional Olympic team. Wednesday’s ruling by the ITF, however, finally put an end to all recent media speculations whether or not she will be playing for Russia at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil?s Rio de Janeiro.
Sharapova would have headlined a team which also included Daria Kasatkina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. With her definitely out, there are talks about who might be replacing the Russian tennis player to the Olympics. And, according to Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev, it will be Ekaterina Makarova who will be playing in Sharapova?s place.
?Everything is simple when it goes for the Olympic entry list,? Tarpishchev told Russian news agency TASS. ?Player?s current ranking plays the determining role and therefore Sharapova will be substituted by Makarova.?
Makarova is ranked as the fifth best female tennis player among the Russians, according to the Women Tennis Association (WTA) current rating list. She is likely the best replacement as she has improved considerably with her best Grand Slam singles results coming at the 2014 US Open and the 2015 Australian Open wherein she reached the semifinals on both occasions.
Makarova will also be pairing with her current partner Elena Vesnina for Russia?s doubles team and hopefully win another title. Makarova is a three-time Grand Slam champion in the doubles competition, having won the 2012 US Open mixed doubles tournament with Bruno Soares, and the 2013 French Open and the 2014 US Open with Elena Vesnina.
Meanwhile, Sharapova said on Wednesday that she will appeal the two-year doping ban handed down to her by the ITF which threatens to end her career.
?While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,? Sharapova wrote on her Facebook page. ?The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.?
Even if the penalty is reduced, it is certain that Sharapova will be missing the Rio Olympics in August. If she loses her appeal, her suspension will run through January 25, 2018 and aside from the Rio Olympics, she would miss eight Grand Slam tournaments during what is likely the remainder of her prime playing years.