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Maria Sharapova hopes for light punishment after failing drug test

By The Sports Xchange   |   March 8, 2016 at 7:39 PM
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Maria Sharapova is pursuing sanctions ranging from no suspension to a maximum one-year ban from tennis for her self-acknowledged doping offense in January, her attorney said Tuesday.

John Haggerty, who represents the five-time major champion, has already engaged in discussions with the International Tennis Federation regarding a settlement in the case. He is hoping to avoid a hearing.

Sharapova tested positive for Meldonium, a substance banned at the start of the year by WADA, at the Australian Open earlier this year. Haggerty and Sharapova said she took the drug for medical reasons.

ITF rules stipulate a four-year ban for intentional use of a performance-enhancing drug and two years for unintentional usage, but it takes into account mitigating circumstances.

As Sharapova fights to avoid a lengthy ban, her image took a hit. Nike, Swiss watch maker Tag Heuer and German luxury car manufacturer Porsche discontinued their support for her on Tuesday.

"We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues," Nike said in a statement.

Sharapova, the highest paid female athlete in the world -- acknowledged Monday that she failed a drug test in Australia.

Sharapova said he had taken Meldonium since 2006 for a variety of health issues. But the drug was added to the banned list at the beginning of 2016 and she blamed ignorance for failing the drug test.

"I don't want to end my career this way," Sharapova said. "I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."

Meldonium has shown to help athletes' endurance and rehabilitation. The World Anti-Doping Agency formally banned the drug at the beginning of this year. WADA sent an email on Dec. 22, indicating what drugs would be banned starting in 2016.

Sharapova, 28, is ranked seventh in the world. Her 35 singles titles and five Grand Slams ranked third among active players behind Venus and Serena Williams.

Forbes says Sharapova has been the highest paid female athlete in the world for 11 consecutive years. The magazine says she made nearly $30 million between June 2014 and June 2015. Less than 25 percent of that was from prize money -- most coming from sponsors Nike, Porsche, Evian and Avon.

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