Maria Sharapova calls her 2-year ban from tennis 'unfairly harsh'
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 7: Tennis player Maria Sharapova addresses the media regarding a failed drug test at the Australian Open at The LA Hotel Downtown on March 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Sharapova, a five-time major champion, is currently the 7th ranked player on the WTA tour. Sharapova, withdrew from this week's BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells due to injury. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Wednesday, the ITF concluded its probe, announcing Sharapova can't compete again professionally until January 2018. In a statement on her Facebook page, Sharapova said she plans to fight the suspension.
Her statement reads, "While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension."
At a press conference in March, the 29-year-old was adamant that she wasn't using the drug to enhance her performance on the court.
She said: "For the past 10 years, I have been given a medicine called, Mildronate, by my family doctor ... After I received the ITF letter, I found out that it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know."
Sharapova accepted responsibility for not checking a Jan. 1 email from the World Anti-Doping Agency announcing the addition of meldonium to the list of banned substances. But she still said she doesn't think her punishment fits the crime.
"It's very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA's banned list, and I had been legally taking the medicine," she said.
The ban has already jeopardized Sharapova's endorsement deals with Nike, Porsche and American Express, which helped make her the highest-earning female athlete of the past decade. Sharapova topped Forbes' list of highest-paid female athletes 11 years straight before Serena Williams passed her this June.