Russia have included Maria Sharapova in their Olympic tennis team despite the star player being suspended over a positive test for the banned drug meldonium, the country’s tennis federation said on Thursday.
“By the end of the first week of Roland Garros, the question of Sharapova’s participation at the Olympic Games should be resolved,” Shamil Tarpischev, the head of Russia’s tennis federation, told R-Sport news agency.
“She has been put on our Olympic application. It has to be submitted by June 6.”
Sharapova, who won silver at the 2012 London Olympics, was suspended in March after she admitted she had tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.
Since then, a string of high profile Russian athletes — including Olympic swimmer Yulia Efimova — also tested positive for meldonium.
But the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which had only banned the Latvian-made drug from January 1, said in April that athletes could escape a ban for taking meldonium because of uncertainty about how long it takes for the substance to leave the body.
Many athletes who had been suspended for testing positive for meldonium have since been absolved.
In April, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said that Sharapova’s case would be heard in accordance with WADA’s recommendations on how to deal with cases involving meldonium.
Russia is poised to send its four highest-ranked players to compete in the singles event at the Rio Olympics, which as of Monday were Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ekaterina Makarova.
If Sharapova cannot compete, Tarpischev said, the team would select the fifth highest-ranked player in the WTA rankings, 19-year-old Daria Kasatkina.
Russia has been rocked by a series of doping scandals, including recent allegations by the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping lab, Grigory Rodchenkov, about a doping cover-up scheme that involved at least 15 medallists at the 2014 Sochi Games, as well as the sports ministry and the FSB security service.
The country is also striving to reinstate its athletics federation, suspended in November over evidence of state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian track and field, in time for Rio.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is set to rule next month on Russia’s participation in the Games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is expected to soon announce the number of failed doping tests from the 2012 London Olympics that have been found during the retesting of samples.
The IOC has already revealed the existence of 31 new suspect cases from the 2008 Beijing Games, 14 of which involve Russian athletes, Russia’s Olympic Committee has said. – Agence France-Presse