Sportswear giant Nike has suspended its deal with tennis star Maria Sharapova – with the Russian facing the prospect of losing millions in endorsements due to her failed drugs test.
The 28-year-old is one of the most familiar faces in the sport and shocked the world yesterday when she admitted testing positive for banned substance meldonium at this year’s Australian Open.
The heart attack drug was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list on January 1 and Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner and the Olympic silver medallist from London 2012, claimed to have not been up to date on new banned substances.
Sharapova has been praised in some quarters for the proactive approach of holding a press conference to announce the news, while others claiming the circumstances mean she cannot be classed as a “drugs cheat”.
She could still lose a string of deals, however.
Nike has decided to suspend its arrangement, saying in a statement: “We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova.
“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues.”
Sharapova’s deal with Nike, which started when she was 11, was reportedly worth $70 million (£50 million/€63 million) over eight years.
Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer has said that it will not extend its deal with the player which had expired in December.
“We had been in talks to extend our collaboration,” a spokesperson said.
“In view of the current situation, the brand has decided not to renew the contract with Sharapova.”
Porsche, one of the most famous car brands in the world, said events set to feature Sharapova would not ake place.
The tennis ace also has deals with water brand Evian and perfume company Avon.
“I made a huge mistake and I let my fans down,” Sharapova, the current world number seven, said when announcing her failure.
“I failed the test and take full responsibility for that.
“I had been taking this medicine for the past 10 years, but on January 1 this became a prohibited substance which I did not know.
“I let the sport down.”
- By Dan Palmer
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz