Nike has suspended its sponsorship deals with Maria Sharapova after she admitted to failing a drugs test at the Australian Open in January.
The sport giants have withdrawn sponsorship deals with the five-time grand-slam champion and have stated that they were “saddened and surprised” to hear of the revelations. Her relationship with Nike spans back to when she was just 11 years old.
In a statement about the pulling of the sponsorship deal Nike said:
“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues
“We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer have also pulled their contract with the tennis star following the new revelations. The company was in talks to extend its deal with Ms Sharapova, which ran out at the end of last year.
Sharapova was named as the highest-paid female athlete in 2015 after earning in the region of $30 million from winnings, endorsements and paid sponsorship deals. These deals were with global companies such as Tag Heuer, Nike, Evian, Porsche and also Avon.
Sharapova came clean on Monday revealing that she failed doping tests at the Australian Open in January, putting her career and Olympic hopes on the line.
Sharapova suffers with diabetes and a magnesium deficiency, and says she turned to meldonium over a period of 10 years (since 2006) as she was regularly falling ill. But was it an honest mistake come January?
The decision to ban the drug was only approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on 16th September 2015, and came into effect on 1st January 2016.
WADA forwarded an email to all associations affiliated with them warning of the ban and its date of effect, which in turn was forwarded to athletes. Sharapova says she didn’t open this email.
Sharapova is currently No. 7 in the WTA rankings after playing just three tournaments and the Fed Cup final in the last eight months since Wimbledon due to injuries.
Meldonium is a drug that not many have heard of, and it is important to realise the importance of its medical properties. The drug- which is often marketed as Mildronate- is used to fight heart disease and increase blood flow in patients.
WADA stated that the decision to ban meldonium was because of its widespread use and the fact that athletes were exploiting its uses to enhance their own performances.
Sharapova’s penalties could range from a multi-year ban to a minimal sanction, or no suspension if officials believe she made an honest mistake. Sharapova will be provisionally suspended starting this weekend while her case is examined.
WADA President Craig Reedie said that any athlete found guilty of using meldonium would normally face a one-year suspension.
Sharapova is not the only athlete that has been pulled up for the use of Meldonium, with two Ukrainian biathletes and Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov testing positive for meldonium since it was banned. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova, a European champion ice dancer, also told local media yesterday that she had also tested positive for meldonium.
Made in Latvia, it is widely available – without prescription and at low cost – in many east European countries, but it is not licensed in most western countries, including the United States. It is thought that hundreds of athletes have been using it and there are a lot more cases in the pipeline.
Sharapova took her test in January, just before going out and losing to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarter-final. She is said to be recovering at present from a forearm injury and had already dropped out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells prior to these revelations.