Earlier this week, it was announced that Maria Sharapova’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) had been successful and her ban for a doping violation had been reduced to 15 months, meaning that she will be back in the competitive arena in April 2017. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) initially banned the Russian for two years for testing positive for meldonium in January of this year but CAS ruled that Sharapova was not an “intentional doper” and so reduced her sentence.

As soon as Sharapova’s fate was made public, the Russian’s PR offensive, unsurprisingly, went into top gear. The evening of the announcement, she appeared on American television, giving an interview to Charlie Rose and while it was hardly the most probing of interviews, one thing she said was of particular interest. Initially, the ITF wanted Sharapova suspended from competition for four years, the maximum ban that she could have received, although the governing body then settled on two years before CAS reduced her sentence further. Rose asked the Russian if she thought that the ITF were trying to make an example of her. She replied: “I never wanted to believe that but I am starting to think that”.

Sharapova clearly feels aggrieved about her treatment from the ITF. Her initial hearing was in front of a supposedly neutral panel, the members of which were chosen by the ITF. Think what you want about Sharapova and about her offense but there can be little disagreement that she is right in her assertion that this was not a neutral panel. She is also miffed that the ITF wanted her to be given the same length of ban that an athlete who had tested positive for “harder drugs”, like EPO or anabolic steroids would have received.

Sharapova’s assessment that the ITF wanted to make an example of her is hard to argue with. Meldonium is considered by many to be somewhat morally dodgy, even when it was not on the banned list, but it surely cannot be classed in the same league as substances like EPO and steroids, yet the ITF wanted to dish out the same punishment. There is an unshakeable sense that the ITF believed that by hammering Sharapova for her positive test, they would send the message out that they were tough on dopers.

They are not the first to think this. Lance Armstrong has been banned from all sport, forever. There is no denying that the American did severe damage to the reputation of cycling but considering the dozens of other riders who admitted to being a part of doping programmes yet only received bans of a couple of years, Armstrong’s ban seems somewhat disproportionate. Yet because Armstrong was the highest profile and most successful of all the dopers, cycling ‘s governing body dished out the severest ban possible in an attempt to prove that they were taking doping seriously.

This is, it seems, the image the ITF wanted to project with their treatment of Sharapova. However, in light of CAS reducing her ban significantly, the ITF have painted themselves to be somewhat incompetent and unfair. But they would rather look tough than fair, because toughness implies that they are governing their sport effectively, doesn’t it?

Yet the ITF are not taking anti-doping seriously. Earlier this week, ESPN released a report suggesting that the ITF has not done enough to curb doping within tennis. Tennis is regularly held up as an example of a clean sport because so few players test positive but ESPN’s report stated “that the clean reputation is largely due to lax anti-doping efforts by the sport.” The report also said that the ITF had done an exceptionally poor job of catching cheaters. And the results of a confidential survey produced alarming results. Of 31 professional tennis players who participated, 65 percent said that the ITF doesn’t drug test enough and, disturbing, said that they know a fellow player who has used performance-enhancing drugs.

It comes as no surprise to most close observers of the sport that tennis’ anti-doping procedures remain substandard. Earlier this year, Andy Murray admitted that he had “suspicions” about other players and in the aftermath of Sharapova’s positive test, he said that while tennis’ testing had improved over the past few years, more could still be done.

No sport will ever be completely clean and with events in the past year-or-so proving the lengths that some athletes will go to in order to cheat, the task of catching the dopers is unarguably difficult. Governing bodies must not take their eye off the ball though, and they must not lose focus on where their priorities should lie. Dopers must be punished but by trying to make an example of Sharapova while tennis’ anti-doping procedures remain below par is an unforgivable mistake. Sharapova will be back in April but huge changes must still be made if tennis is to become a cleaner sport.