The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Monday it has put back its ruling on the two-year doping ban for Maria Sharapova for two months to September, ruling the tennis superstar out of the Rio Olympics.
The 29-year-old Russian tested positive for the banned medication meldonium during January’s Australian Open, in a severe blow to her reputation.
If the ban — which Sharapova has called “unfairly harsh” — is upheld it would almost certainly end one of sport’s most celebrated and high-profile careers.
“Maria Sharapova and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have agreed to defer the CAS decision until September 2016,” said a CAS statement.
“Due to the parties requiring additional time to complete and respond to their respective evidentiary submissions, and several scheduling conflicts, the parties have agreed not to expedite the appeal.
“A decision is expected to be issued by September 19, 2016.”
The original ruling was expected by July 18, with Sharapova hoping that a successful appeal would have allowed her to spearhead the Russian tennis team in Rio.
CAS confirmed to AFP that Sharapova will not be able to compete at the Olympics.
Russia’s participation at the Games, which begin on August 5, is already under fierce scrutiny after its track and field team was banned for separate state-sponsored doping.
The Russian tennis federation chief said Sharapova’s absence in Rio would badly dent their medal hopes.
“(It is) a serious loss for our team at the Olympics as we counted on her medal in women’s singles,” TASS news agency quoted Shamil Tarpishchev as saying.
Sharapova’s ban was backdated to January 26 this year, when she tested positive for the prohibited substance.
Meldonium was added to the world anti-doping WADA list on January 1. Sharapova said she had been taking it for 10 years to help treat illnesses, a heart issue and a magnesium deficiency.
The CAS statement added: “In her appeal to the CAS, Ms Sharapova seeks the annulment of the (ITF) tribunal’s decision to sanction her with a two-year period of ineligibility further to an anti-doping rule violation.
“Ms Sharapova submits that the period of ineligibility should be eliminated, or in the alternative, reduced. The final decision will be announced and published by CAS when it is available.”
– ‘Huge mistake’ –
The former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion, who is based in the United States, told a packed press conference in Los Angeles in March that she had failed a dope test at the Australian Open and admitted making a “huge mistake”.
“I let my fans down. I let my sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply,” added Sharapova, her voice wavering.
“I know that with this, I face consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way — and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”
Sharapova burst onto the international scene as she giggled and grunted her way to the Wimbledon crown in 2004.
She won the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the French Open in 2012 and 2014.
Her ferocity on the court, business acumen and glamorous looks have all combined to make her a marketing juggernaut and the overseer of such successful ventures as her Sugarpova line of candy.
She has 35 WTA singles titles and more than $36 million in career earnings.