(Reuters) - The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will review the process by which it informs players of substances added to its prohibited list after the ban it handed down to Maria Sharapova was reduced on Tuesday.
Five-times grand slam winner Sharapova has been cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to return to action in April after her two-year suspension was reduced to 15 months. [ID:L3N1CA2TA]
The Russian has maintained that she was unaware meldonium, or mildronate, was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances in January, shortly before her positive test in Melbourne.
The ITF said it had taken appropriate action to inform players, including Sharapova, of changes to the banned list but would continue to review the way it communicated with them.
“The ITF believes that the appropriate steps were taken to publicise any changes to the Prohibited List,” the governing body of world tennis said in a statement.
“Nonetheless, we have reviewed, and will continue to review, our 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.”
Former world number one Sharapova has said she took the substance for a decade for health reasons and had not read an email informing her that a ban on its use in sport had been imposed by WADA.
The 29-year-old, who said Tuesday’s CAS decision to reduce her ban had made it one of the happiest days of her career, said other sports federations were more effective at communicating with athletes and hoped the ITF would take note.
“I have taken responsibility from the very beginning for not knowing that the over-the-counter supplement I had been taking for the last 10 years was no longer allowed,” Sharapova said in a statement.
”But I also learned how much better other federations were at notifying their athletes of the rule change, especially in Eastern Europe where Mildronate is commonly taken by millions of people.
“Now that this process is over, I hope the ITF and other relevant tennis anti-doping authorities will study what these other federations did, so that no other tennis player will have to go through what I went through.”
Sharapova’s attorney John Haggerty blasted the ITF for what he said was a failure to properly warn his client and said the governing body should take note of how other sports federations inform athletes.
According to Haggerty, the ITF’s procedure for relaying rule changes is a “night and day difference” compared to the “vivid and direct warnings” given by other federations.
Haggerty, who applauded the procedures used by the Russian Skating Federation, among others, said if Sharapova was a skater instead of a tennis player none of this would have happened.
“The ITF handled this matter poorly from start to finish. Maria took responsibility for her mistake,” Haggerty said on a conference call.
“It’s time for the ITF to take responsibility for its mistakes and change its procedures so that this can never happen to another player. Based on this ruling, the ITF has a lot to learn.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris