Maria Sharapova’s legal team are investigating the possibility of suing the International Tennis Federation, after Sharapova’s doping ban for the use of meldonium was reduced to 15 months.

Sharapova will be able to return to the tennis tour on April 26 next year, thanks to an appeal judgment handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This represented an improvement on her original sentence of two years, which had been due to run out on Jan 26, 2018.

In a conference call this afternoon, Sharapova’s lawyer, John Haggerty, claimed the ruling as a triumph. “The CAS decision is a stunning repudiation of the ITF,” he said, “and it exposes the ITF decision for what it is: pure fiction.”

Haggerty went on to add that “Maria was forced to live with the ITF’s bad judgment and faulty conclusions for many months” – a claim which presumably underlies the putative lawsuit which he and his colleagues are understood to be preparing.

Yet the CAS did not absolve Sharapova of any negligence in continuing to take meldonium after it had joined the banned list on Jan 1. Instead, this second panel made a lawyerly distinction between “fault” (which was present, in their opinion) and “significant fault” (which was not).

It was not unreasonable for Sharapova to entrust her anti-doping safeguards to her agent Max Eisenbud, the CAS said. At the same time, though, she could have been more engaged in the process, rather than simply stepping back and leaving everything to Eisenbud, who confessed in June that he had failed to carry out his usual checks because of the disruption caused by a recent divorce.

Sources at the ITF indicated that they had yet to receive a legal challenge from Sharapova’s representatives, and did not expect to do so.

Indeed, there was a sense that Sharapova’s supporters might be overplaying their hand. This was particularly true of Johan Eliasch, the chairman of her racket manufacturing company, Head, who has supported her with almost slavish devotion throughout the controversy. Within moments of the CAS ruling, Head had tweeted its congratulations to Sharapova in a message accompanied by a photograph of her performing a fist-pump.

As for Sharapova herself, she released a statement expressing huge enthusiasm – almost surprising enthusiasm, given that she still has another six months of exile ahead of her. “I’ve gone from one of the toughest days of my career last March when I learnt about my suspension to now, one of my happiest days,” she said, “as I found out I can return to tennis in April.

Source : telegraph.co.uk