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ITF hits back against Sharapova claims

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The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has denied that it tried to ban Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova for four years. After the ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which reduced the sanction of the Russian player to 15 months, the ITF on Thursday said that it did not "try to ban Sharapova for four years, as has been suggested".

The ITF said in a statement that: "it was the responsibility of the Independent Tribunal - and subsequently the CAS Panel - to determine what the appropriate sanction should be."

The federation defended the independence of the members of that court after Sharapova cast doubt on its neutrality.

"Sharapova's legal team was given the opportunity to object to the appointment of any member of that Tribunal in advance of the hearing, and they agreed in writing that they had no such objection," the note added.

It continued: "It has also been suggested that the ITF should have given specific notice to Eastern European athletes relating to the change in status of meldonium, because it was in common use by those athletes, and that this was known by the ITF prior to 2016. This is not true. In fact, it was accepted by Ms. Sharapova in the hearing before CAS that the ITF did not know before 2016 about the extent to which meldonium was used by athletes from any region, or that Ms. Sharapova herself was using meldonium.

"In addition to Ms. Sharapova’s failure to declare her use of meldonium on any of her doping control forms, the WADA monitoring program is conducted anonymously, so even WADA itself does not know the names of athletes using the substances being monitored. Furthermore, WADA does not inform any anti-doping organisation about the prevalence of such use until it publishes the results of the monitoring program, which for the 2015 monitoring program was in May 2016.

"The ITF believes that the appropriate steps were taken to publicise the changes to the 2016 Prohibited List. Nonetheless, the ITF has reviewed, and will continue to review, its processes for communicating changes to the Prohibited List to players with the aim of ensuring that no player can claim that they had not been fully informed."