Wednesday 22 November 2017

Sponsors and players abandon Sharapova over failed drug test

Maria Sharapova poses with a watch from sponsor Tag Heuer in 2006. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files
Maria Sharapova poses with a watch from sponsor Tag Heuer in 2006. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

James Ellingworth

Maria Sharapova, the world's highest-earning female athlete for many years, has been abandoned by some of her biggest sponsors after the Russian tennis star acknowledged taking a recently banned substance for a decade.

Sportswear giant Nike, Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer and German luxury car company Porsche quickly distanced themselves from the five-time Grand Slam winner, who announced on Monday that she tested positive for meldonium, which aids oxygen uptake and endurance, at the Australian Open, days after the drug was banned.

The 28-year-old and former world No 1 could face a lengthy ban from the International Tennis Federation, possibly ending her season and preventing her from competing for Russia at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova," Nike responded in a statement. "We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues."

TAG Heuer, which had been discussing a new deal with Sharapova after its sponsorship expired at the end of 2015, said it has decided not to renew the contract "in view of the current situation".

Porsche said it has "chosen to postpone planned activities" with Sharapova "until further details are released and we can analyse the situation".

Meanwhile, former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki has suggested that the Russian only has herself to blame. "Any time we take medication we double and triple check, because sometimes even things like nasal spray can be on the banned list," she said.

"As athletes, we always make sure there's nothing in it that could put us in a bad situation."

Irish Independent

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