Nike Suspends Maria Sharapova Sponsorship After Failed Drug Test

When tennis star Maria Sharapova tweeted at 4:00 am pst on Monday that she was having a press conference at noon, most assumed she would be announcing her retirement from tennis.

Sharapova dropped another bombshell, instead announcing that she had tested positive for a newly-banned substance after competing in the Australian Open. The drug, is called meldonium and is sold under the brand name Mildronate

Sharapova took responsibility saying she was first prescribed the drug 10 years ago. “I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it.”

I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having back in 2006: I was getting sick a lot, was getting the flu every couple of months, I had irregular EKG results as well as indications of diabetes, with a family history of diabetes.

A reporter asked her point blank if she took it to get a competitive advantage on the court.

Sharapova said “It made me healthy and that’s why I continued to take it.”

The International Tennis Federation announced that Sharapova will be provisionally banned from competition effective March 12 pending the outcome of her case. She could face a penalty of up to a four-year ban.

Within hours of the announcement, several of her sponsors announced they would be suspending their relationships pending the outcome of the investigation.

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

Automaker Porsche, owned by Volkswagen, said Tuesday it was postponing all planned sponsorship activities with Sharapova. Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer, part of the LVMH group, said it was suspending negotiations with the tennis player about renewing a sponsorship deal that ended in December.