- Associated Press
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

PARIS — Two-time champion Maria Sharapova has missed out on a wild-card entry for the French Open because of her doping ban.

Announcing the decision on a live Facebook broadcast on Tuesday, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said he told Sharapova in person.


“I decided not to give Maria Sharapova a wild card. I’m very sorry for Maria, very sorry for her fans. They might be disappointed, she might be very disappointed,” Giudicelli said. “But it’s my responsibility, it’s my mission to protect the game and protect the high standards of the game.”

Sharapova returned to tennis only last month following a 15-month ban for doping.

“This suspension is over and she can take her path toward new success,” Giudicelli said. “But while there can be a wild card for return from injury, there can’t be a wild card for return from doping.”

Sharapova, who has titles at all four majors, won at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.

Thanks to wild cards at her first two tournaments, she got her world ranking to outside the top 200 this week. But that wasn’t good enough to make the cut even for the qualifying field at Roland Garros, so she will miss the tournament for a second straight year.

The French Open begins on May 28.

She’s using another wild card to play in the Italian Open this week.

Sharapova initially was given a two-year suspension after testing positive for the banned heart drug meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal, ruling she bore “less than significant fault” in the case and she could not “be considered to be an intentional doper.” Sharapova had been taking meldonium for many years, but overlooked announcements by WADA that it added the drug to its banned list on Jan. 1, 2016.

“The Court of Arbitration reduced her suspension but also recognized that Maria was the sole person responsible for her misfortune,” Giudicelli said. “It’s not down to me to question that decision and, I repeat, we must respect decisions that were taken.”

Top-ranked players Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray spoke out against Sharapova receiving wild cards, while Eugenie Bouchard went as far as calling her a “cheater” who should be banned for life.

Italian Open organizers were the first to offer Sharapova a wild card, and they were criticized for not giving one to former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, an Italian. But on Monday, fans cheered and held up signs of encouragement for Sharapova, a three-time Rome champion, during her first-round match.

It was much the same reception as she got in Stuttgart, Germany, her first tournament back. At the time, WTA CEO Steve Simon told German broadcaster ZDF she had paid the price.

“I don’t think a suspension should wipe out the career’s worth of work,” he said.

Sharapova got another wild card for the Madrid Open last week.

But she didn’t won enough at those two events to secure a spot in qualifying for Roland Garros, and so was reliant on a wild card into the main draw.

Although sympathetic, Giudicelli was also unrepentant.

“I know that a lot of people might be disappointed by this decision. But nevertheless Roland Garros invests a lot - along with the other Grand Slams, the ATP, and the WTA - into the fight against doping,” he said. “It was inconceivable to take a decision that would have been the opposite of this.

“I know the media dimension Maria has. I know the expectation fans and broadcasters have. But it didn’t seem possible for me to go above the strong commitment and the respect for the anti-doping code.”


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