Sharapova fortunate to escape with 2-year ban: Cash

"My gut feeling is if you're a professional athlete and you know you're taking performance-enhancing drug, which clearly she was — then two years, I think she got off pretty lightly in that respect," Cash said.

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Maria Sharapova, who claimed she was unaware meldonium was added to WADA's prohibited list at the start of the year, announced almost immediately that she will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Former Grand Slam champion Pat Cash believes Maria Sharapova was fortunate to escape with a two-year ban after failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January, though the Russian's career and reputation has taken a big hit.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Wednesday confirmed former World No. 1 and five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova will serve the backdated suspension, having been provisionally banned in March following her positive test for meldonium in Melbourne.

Sharapova, who claimed she was unaware meldonium was added to WADA's prohibited list at the start of the year, announced almost immediately that she will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

But Australian Cash, who won Wimbledon in 1987, said the 29-year-old faces a long road back to the WTA Tour.

"My gut feeling is if you're a professional athlete and you know you're taking performance-enhancing drug, which clearly she was — then two years, I think she got off pretty lightly in that respect," Cash told ABC radio on Thursday.

"I think her career and reputation is absolutely shot to bits.

"The question mark is she has been taking the drugs for so long, how much does it help her get through those hot days in Australia, those long matches in the stinking heat of New York or wherever else it happened to be?

"She's going to be able to recover much better than the other athletes. How many matches has this helped her win? It wasn't on the banned list but it was performance-enhancing."

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