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Maria Sharapova back in April 2017 as ban reduced by CAS

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Maria Sharapova says she is counting the days until she can return to tennis after the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced her doping ban from two years

Maria Sharapova's doping ban has been reduced to 15 months after a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing.

Sharapova will be free to return to tennis on April 26, 2017, after CAS took nine months off an initial two-year suspension for a positive meldonium test.

And the former world No 1 can now look forward to challenging for a third French Open title and a sixth Grand Slam next spring.

She said: "I feel like something I love was taken away from me and it will feel really good to have it back. Tennis is my passion and I have missed it. I am counting the days until I can return to the court."

Sharapova's positive test came at this year's Australian Open less than four weeks after meldonium was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of prohibited substances.

The Russian had been a long-term user of the drug and argued she was guilty of nothing more than an oversight.

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The International Tennis Federation rejected Sharapova's defence at a June tribunal and opposed Sharapova's appeal to CAS, made on the plea she had 'no significant fault' in the positive test.

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The CAS ruling upheld her plea but found she "bore some degree of fault, for which a sanction of 15 months is appropriate".

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam singles champion, will now be free to chase a third French Open title at Roland Garros next spring.

Russia's Maria Sharapova plays a forehand return to Belinda Bencic at the 2016 Australian Open
Image: Sharapova's two-year ban has been cut by nine months on appeal

She said in a Facebook statement: "I have learned from this, and I hope the ITF has as well. CAS concluded that "the Panel has determined it does not agree with many of the conclusions of the [ITF] Tribunal…"

The statement continued: "I have taken responsibility from the very beginning for not knowing that the over-the-counter supplement I had been taking for the last ten years was no longer allowed. 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."

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