Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has successfully appealed her two-year ban for a doping violation and had it reduced to 15 months, meaning she will be able to return to action April 26, 2017.
ESPN's Darren Rovell and the Associated Press confirmed the decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday:
The Daily Telegraph's Ben Rumsby provided Sharapova's statement following the decision:
The five-time Grand Slam champion initially received a two-year ban from the International Tennis Federation in June that would have been in effect until Jan. 25, 2018.
The sanction came after she tested positive for meldonium, a heart-disease drug, at January's Australian Open and an out-of-competition test in Moscow in February, per Rebecca R. Ruiz in the New York Times.
Ruiz added this on meldonium:
The drug is a heart medication common in Eastern Europe. It regulates metabolism and has been prescribed to increase energy. It has been used to treat strokes, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. It was invented in Latvia in the 1970s.
Its effects have been debated. Russian sports officials have called it a longstanding method to increase stamina and help athletes recover from training, disputing the notion that it gives an unfair advantage.
Sharapova's initial defence was she had not known meldonium was banned, as it had only been prohibited since Jan. 1, 2016. She had been taking it since 2006, per BBC Sport.
Subsequently, she was adjudged to have broken the rules unintentionally rather than in an attempt to gain an unfair edge over her competitors, per Ruiz.
Sharapova still maintained her punishment was "unfairly harsh," and she immediately announced her intention to appeal when sanctioned back in June, per BBC Sport.
Following Tuesday's news, Sharapova could be back in action in time for the 2017 French Open, which begins in late May of next year, with Wimbledon then scheduled to begin on July 3.