Sharapova appeals to CAS in doping case; ruling by July 18

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Maria Sharapova appealed her two-year doping ban to the highest court in sports on Tuesday, with an expedited ruling to be issued next month ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Sharapova filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport seeking to overturn or reduce the suspension imposed by the International Tennis Federation last week after the Russian tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

CAS said both sides agreed to an “expedited procedure” which will allow the court to issue its ruling by July 18, at the latest.

The timing means that, if the suspension is thrown out, Sharapova would be eligible to compete at the Rio Games, which open on Aug. 5.

CAS said it hasn’t decided whether to hold a hearing or not.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, announced she would appeal following last Tuesday’s announcement of her suspension.

An independent three-person panel appointed by the ITF said Sharapova did not intend to cheat because she didn’t know meldonium was banned, but that she bore “sole responsibility” and “very significant fault” for the positive test.

Sharapova was provisionally suspended by the ITF in early March, when she announced at a news conference in Los Angeles that she failed a doping test in January.

Sharapova said then she was not aware that the World Anti-Doping Agency barred athletes from using meldonium, also known as mildronate, from Jan. 1.

In addition to testing positive at the Australian Open, the ITF said she also failed a test for meldonium in an out-of-competition control in Moscow on Feb. 2.

Sharapova’s ban is due to end on Jan. 25, 2018.

Sharapova said she first was prescribed the Latvian-made drug, typically used for heart conditions, for medical reasons in 2006. She could have been barred from competing for up to four years.

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