Tennis pro Varvara Lepchenko’s doping ban cut to 21 months

Feb 2, 2023, 8:57 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2023, 10:59 am
United States' Varvara Lepchenko makes a backhand return to Japan's Mayo Hibi during a tuneup tourn...

United States' Varvara Lepchenko makes a backhand return to Japan's Mayo Hibi during a tuneup tournament ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Lepchenko has had her doping suspension for use of a banned stimulant reduced from four years to 21 months as part of an agreement with the International Tennis Federation. (AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill, File)

(AP Photo/Andrew Brownbill, File)

Former top-20 tennis player and U.S. Olympian Varvara Lepchenko’s doping suspension for use of a banned stimulant was reduced from four years to 21 months as part of an agreement with the International Tennis Federation.

The agreeement was reached after Lepchenko appealed her suspention to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The settlement was signed in October, approved by CAS on Tuesday and made public by the ITF on Friday. The World Anti-Doping Agency signed off on it, too.

Lepchenko’s urine sample after a first-round loss at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2021 contained the stimulant. She then competed at three other events — including winning a title in Charleston, South Carolina — before being provisionally banned for four years, backdated to August 2021.

Her appeal to CAS was based on her later finding, in a travel bag, a bottle of capsules that was determined to contain the substance for which she tested positive — an ingredient that was not listed on the bottle label.

According to the ITF’s news release Friday, Lepchenko and the ITF agreed that she committed a violation, that she will be ineligible to compete for 21 months, and that her penalty will run from August 2021 — the time of her most recent match — and expire this May.

“Varvara is relieved that she was able to establish, through a lengthy investigation, that her positive test was caused by a contaminated supplement that did not disclose the presence of the banned substance on its label,” a lawyer for Lepchenko, Howard Jacobs, wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “She looks forward to her return to the WTA Tour in May.”

This marked Lepchenko’s second doping case, but the ITF punished her as though it were her first because she was ruled to be not at fault in the earlier case, which involved testing positive in 2016 for meldonium, the heart medication that led to Maria Sharapova’s doping ban.

Lepchenko, 36, has represented the United States at the Olympics and in the Billie Jean King Cup.

She has earned more than $5 million in prize money and reached a career-high WTA ranking of No. 19 in 2012. That was the year she made it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the French Open, beating 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone there. Lepchenko reached the fourth round at the U.S. Open in 2015.

Lepchenko was born in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, later moving with her father and sister to Florida. She was granted political asylum, began living in Pennsylvania in 2003, and became a U.S. citizen in 2011.


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