By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Tennis must raise its game to ensure cases like Maria Sharapova's do not happen again, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said on Tuesday after an arbitration hearing reduced the Russian's ban for doping.
Steve Simon told Reuters that the WTA, while not the governing body, also had a duty to give players clear and specific notifications about changes to the list of banned substances.
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"Nothing positive comes from a positive drug test for anybody involved and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make sure that everybody is educated and something like this never happens again," he said.
"I think that we have to...take this experience and say we need to be better than this," he said in a telephone interview from China.
"We have to look at the reasons that CAS overturned the decision and improve upon it. I think the ITF is committed to doing that and I know the WTA is. It’s part of the process and we need to take an honest look at everything and make sure we’re doing it better."
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had earlier reduced a ban imposed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from two years to 15 months, allowing former world number one Sharapova to return on April 26.
The 29-year-old was handed the ban after a positive test for meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of banned substances at the start of the year.
Sharapova admitted taking the drug during the season's opening grand slam in Melbourne in January but said she had been unaware that it had been banned.
While reducing the sanction, the CAS found that the player "bore some degree of fault" -- but less than "significant fault" -- through relying on agent Max Eisenbud to check the prohibited list for changes and failing to ensure he had done so.
Simon said Sharapova, who will now have to rebuild her ranking, had acted "with a very high level of integrity through this whole process" and it was clear there had been no intention to cheat.
"I think the process was comprehensive, independent and fair and that we support the decision that came out of it," he added of the CAS ruling.
"We certainly very much look forward to Maria being back on the court next Spring. And I think that the game and everybody will certainly welcome her back."
Simon said the absence of any leading player, whether through injury or a suspension, was damaging for the sport as well as the individual.
"Maria is obviously a very successful athlete and a very prominent personality in our sport and of course she’s missed when she’s not on the court and we look forward to having her back," he said.
"I’m sure she’s going to come back very eager and hungry to play well and I think it will be great for tennis."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)