Sharapova ban was 'anti-Russian', says sponsor boss

Ian Payne

Former Sports Correspondent

The boss of one of Maria Sharapova's sponsors has told ITV News she should never have been banned from tennis after failing a drugs test - and the decision was merely anti-Russian.

The CEO of HEAD, the tennis racket manufacturer, says the drug she took, meldonium, shouldn't even be on the World Anti Doping Agency's (WADA) banned list.

Johan Eliasch was speaking after Sharapova's two-year ban was reduced to 15 monthsby the Court of Arbitration for Sport this afternoon.

Eliasch told ITV news : "It’s great news. I believe that the rule instigated by WADA to ban the substance Meldonium was plainly wrong.

"I believe they banned the substance based on the prevalence of Meldonium in Eastern European athletes.

"Not because they had done any clinical testing to support that it is performance enhancing".

Maria Sharapova won the women's singles final of Wimbledon in 2004. Credit: PA

HEAD were one of the few sponsors to stand by the Russian after she failed a drugs test last January.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) banned her for 24 months.

Meldonium was only put on the World Anti Doping Agency's banned list at the beginning of the year.

In her appeal Sharapova claimed she'd been taking it for 10 years as medicine, and didn't know it was now on the list.

Eliasch went on: "Has WADA something against Russia? I believe they do.

"Was she guilty of breaking a rule, yes. Should she have been banned from competitive tennis? In my opinion, no."

Tuesday's decision means she will be able to compete at both the French Open and Wimbledon next summer.

Sharapova has welcomed the news.