Maria Sharapova was just hit with a TWO YEAR BAN by the International Tennis Federation for doping ... but she claims it's "unfair" and vows to appeal.
The ITF just issued a statement saying Sharapova's urine tested positive for meldonium -- a metabolic modulator that's prohibited in the sport.
The ITF says it cut Sharapova a break when it comes to the punishment because she "promptly admitted" to the offense. Instead of starting the 2-year ban today, they will backdate the suspension to January 26 -- the date of the sample collection.
The ITF also ruled that her results at the 2016 Australian Open should be disqualified -- and she must forfeit her ranking points and prize money that she won at that event.
For her part, Sharapova says she did NOT intentionally use the substance -- and wants her fans to know she should not be considered a cheater.
"The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not," Sharapova said in a statement.
"You need to know that the ITF asked the tribunal to suspend me for four years – the required suspension for an intentional violation -- and the tribunal rejected the ITF’s position."
Sharapova says she will fight the decision -- "I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension ... I will immediately appeal the suspension."
"I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible."