The International Tennis Federation on Wednesday rejected Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova's claims that the tennis body was trying to make an example of her, with regard to her doping-related suspension which was recently reduced to 15 month from two years.
In an interview with the US broadcaster PBS, Sharapova was asked whether, as a former world number one and five-time major winner, the ITF was trying to make an example of her.
"I never wanted to believe that, but I am starting to think that," said the Russian. "I got a 24-month suspension, but they (the ITF) wanted four years for me."
But the ITF defended its procedures and the tribunal handed down a two-year ban after Sharapova tested positive for meldonium at the Australian Open in January.
"The ITF did not 'try to ban Ms Sharapova for four years'. The ITF took the position that it is the independent tribunal's responsibility to determine what the appropriate sanction should be," said a statement from the tennis body. "This included the decision as to whether Ms Sharapova met the requirements set out in the tennis anti-doping programme — which are the same as those in the WADA code — for a reduction from the default four-year suspension for the use of a non-specified substance such as meldonium."
Sharapova had also claimed the ITF were not taking a neutral stance in their discussions.
"I went through the ITF hearing, which was in front of an arbitration (panel) which was chosen by the ITF," she said. "I am at a hearing (in London) knowing the people I am speaking to were chosen by the people that I am actually in a fight with. They call that neutral? That is not neutral. CAS is neutral and this is what CAS has awarded to me."
The ITF in their statement said that Sharapova and her legal team had the right to object to any member of the independent tribunal.
"The members of the independent tribunal, which consisted of a barrister as chairman and medical and scientific experts as co-members, are appointed by the ITF," their statement added. "However, Ms Sharapova's legal team was given the opportunity to object to any member of that tribunal, and they agreed in writing that they had no such objection."
Sharapova had admitted to using meldonium for 10 years to help treat illnesses, a heart issue and a magnesium deficiency.