The tennis star claims she was on mildronate (meldonium), named a banned substance since January 1st this year, for health reasons.
Nike, one of Sharapova’s longtime endorsers, reacted to the news swiftly. “We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation,” it said in a statement.
Following Nike, Tag Heuer also announced its decision not to renew its sponsorship contract with the five-time Grand Slam champion.
Besides losing her sponsorship deals amounting to US$30 million a year, Sharapova could be banned from competing in future tennis competitions. She will be provisionally suspended from the sport from March 12th onwards, but the jury is still out over the exact punishment she will receive.
Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and consequently improves the exercise capacity of athletes, after competing in the Australian Open this year.
On January 1st this year, meldonium was labeled a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency due to its endurance enhancing capabilities.
Also known as mildronate, the Latvia-manufactured drug is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.
At a press conference, Sharapova admitted to taking the substance for the past ten years to treat a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.
Sharapova claimed she had received a notification from the International Tennis Federation last year, on December 22nd, informing her of the changes in the banned substances list. She had failed to take a look at the list, which led to her current predicament.
Source: Daily Mail Online