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Sharapova Tennis: Head 'congratulates' Sharapova on reduced ban

Tennis: Maria Sharapova has earned the congratulations of sponsor Head after having her doping ban cut.

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Sporting goods manufacturer Head has moved to "congratulate" Maria Sharapova after her doping ban was reduced from two years to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Sharapova had been set to return to action in January 2018 after testing positive for meldonium this year, but will now be back on court next April.

The Russian's sponsors were split in their stance on Sharapova's ban, but racket-maker Head was among the backers to stand by the 29-year-old.

And chief executive officer Johan Eliasch released an almost celebratory statement on Tuesday, while also calling for wholesale changes to anti-doping processes.

"As a result of the CAS ruling on Maria Sharapova, Head would like to firstly congratulate Maria on justice being served," he wrote.

"We eagerly await her return to competitive tennis in April 2017 and we are very proud to have stood by Maria for the right reasons throughout these difficult and testing times for both Maria and those who have supported her all over the world.

"However, it must not detract from the fact that she had been taking a legitimately prescribed medication that the anti-doping agencies were aware of for 10 years. 

"It is wholly unfair that Maria, an upstanding individual of the highest moral and ethical conduct, was banned from playing competitive tennis while not actively engaging in any behaviours that could be considered cheating.

"This calls into question the revelations about certain Olympic athletes who were granted therapeutic use exemptions for substances that could most certainly be considered performance enhancing and have been proven to be performance enhancing under significant clinical testing while meldonium, the substance that Maria had been taking, has yet to be proven under any significant clinical testing to have any performance enhancing benefits.

"We therefore conclude that due to the inconsistencies in this case, and many other cases, that there is an urgent need for a wholesale comprehensive review and change to the anti-doping system in identifying performance enhancing drugs and subsequently in informing athletes of the risks associated with the usage of certain substances no matter the circumstances.

"Once again, we are very pleased to welcome Maria back to the sport that we all love, where we have no doubt her true character will shine through and her status as a champion amongst champions will be restored."

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