Sharapova's Wimbledon hope as meldonium verdict in the pipeline

Russia's Maria Sharapova wipes her face during her match against Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic during the French Open, on June 1, 2015.
Russia's Maria Sharapova wipes her face during her match against Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic during the French Open, on June 1, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Timeline for ITF hearing raises possibility that Russian may be able to compete at Wimbledon

LAUSANNE • A disciplinary hearing has been scheduled in Maria Sharapova's doping case, with a ruling possible before Wimbledon starts.

David Haggerty, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) president, said on Wednesday that its doping cases typically take "two to three months" to process. That could deliver a verdict in June.

Haggerty said he had not been told details by the federation's anti-doping tribunal, including when and where the hearing would be held.

Sharapova was provisionally suspended after announcing on March 8 that she tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

The Russian said she had been prescribed the blood-flow boosting drug since 2006, and had been unaware the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) had prohibited its use from Jan 1. Russian officials want Sharapova to play at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

Sharapova will not have her provisional ban lifted pending the verdict, despite Wada publishing new guidelines to sports bodies last week amid uncertainty over how long meldonium remains in an athlete's body.

Some athletes among nearly 200 who have tested positive claim they had not taken the drug this year. Haggerty said Sharapova's case "will continue to he heard".

"For her, given her levels of meldonium, it is not even a question," Olivier Niggli, the incoming Wada director general, said this week.

Haggerty, elected as ITF president last year, said the governing body and its integrity unit will be more transparent in communicating about cases.

On Tuesday, the ITF announced a 10-year ban for a Croatian umpire who had continued to work, including at the 2015 US Open, while he was serving a one-year ban which was never publicly disclosed.

"We don't always get things 100 per cent but you learn through this," Haggerty said in a briefing on the sidelines of the SportAccord conference.

On potential match-fixing cases, the Tennis Integrity Unit received more than 40 alerts of suspicious betting patterns in matches played in the first three months this year, Haggerty said.

The American official is due in Rio de Janeiro in May to assess Olympic preparations which are "in progress but not finished," including court surfaces and lighting at the Olympic Park venue.

"If you have a night session and you don't have lights, you have a problem," he said. "They are being installed."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Sharapova's meldonium verdict in the pipeline'. Print Edition | Subscribe