Tennis

Sharapova: I fought hard for truth to be out

Tennis star Maria Sharapova said she is excited about her return to competition next month, feeling vindicated by the reduction of her doping ban and empowered by her time away.

She was initially banned for two years after testing positive at the 2016 Australian Open for meldonium, a medication she had been taking for 10 years within the rules, but that was reclassified as a banned drug.

Sharapova vigorously fought to overturn the ban, saying she had not been properly advised of the official change, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport cut the ban to 15 months and said it did not believe she was "an intentional doper".

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"Although I'm at a stage or age in my career where you're closer to the end than your beginning, you always want to end a chapter in your life on your own terms, in your own voice," Russia's former world No. 1 told the ANA Inspiring Women in Sports conference at Mission Hills.

"That's why I fought so hard for the truth to be out," the five-time Grand Slam winner added at the programme that included tennis and women's sports pioneer Billie Jean King, Olympic champion gymnast Aly Raisman and 2014 ANA Inspiration champion golfer Lexi Thompson.

Sharapova's ban will end two days after the Stuttgart Grand Prix starts on April 24.

She has been given a wildcard by organisers, who scheduled her first match on the Wednesday in her competitive return.

Sharapova, who turns 30 on April 19, kept herself busy during her tennis absence.

She took a class at Harvard Business School in global strategic management, spent another 10 days in London studying leadership, interned at an advertising agency, spent a week shadowing NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and a week with Nike designers besides attending to her Sugarpova candy brand.

"I learnt that life can be OK without tennis," said Sharapova.

"It was empowering." 
- REUTERS