Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended as a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations following her positive drugs test.
The 28-year-old Russian had held the role with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) since 2007 but it has been placed on hold after she admitted testing positive for meldonium.
“The UNDP remains grateful to Maria Sharapova for her support of our work, especially around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster recovery,” said a spokesperson of the UNDP, which works towards the eradication of poverty.
“However, in light of Ms Sharapova’s recent announcement, we last week suspended her role as a goodwill ambassador and any planned activities while the investigation continues.”
Those appointed as goodwill ambassadors are people of “integrity” who are at the top of their field.
They often travel to developing countries to witness first hand the problems that are faced, and give their time freely to the UNDP.
Footballers Didier Drogba, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo are among other ambassadors from the world of sport, while actor Antonio Banderas and the Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway are also serving in the role.
A page on Sharapova’s activities has been removed from the UNDP website.
The news is another blow to Sharapova, who is also facing the prospect of losing millions in endorsements.
The five-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medallist has seen her deal with sportswear giant Nike suspended while a deal with watch maker Tag Heuer will not be extended.
Porsche, one of the most famous car brands in the world, said planned events set to feature Sharapova would not take place.
Sharapova, one of the most familiar faces in women’s sport, shocked the world on March 7 when she admitted testing positive for 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 after WADA said it was being used for performance enhancing purposes.
A string of other athletes have also failed tests with Sharapova claiming she took the drug for medical purposes and had notrealised it had been banned.
“I made a huge mistake and I let my fans down,” Sharapova, the current world number seven, said when announcing her failure.
- By Dan Palmer
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz