Maria Sharapova stunned the tennis world on Monday by revealing that she tested positive for the drug Meldonium at the Australian Open in January.
In Sharapova’s press conference streamed live on her YouTube channel, she remarked that she had tested positive for the drug Meldonium. The tennis star said she had taken the substance since 2006 for “several health issues going on at the time,” including repeatedly getting sick and irregular EKG results. She went on to explain that she received a letter December 22nd from WADA about changes to the banned substance list for 2016 that she neglected to read, and that Meldonium was added.
Sharapova says she failed a drug test. Been taking same medicine for 10 years. On Jan 1st 2016, rules changed. Became prohibited substance
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) March 7, 2016
The International Tennis Federation has released a statement that Sharapova will be “provisionally suspended” beginning March 12, but the length of the suspension is not yet known.
Additionally, Nike has already announced that they are suspending their relationship with the 28-year-old tennis star:
Sharapova signed an eight-year contract extension worth up to $70 million with Nike in 2010 (via Forbes):
Nike has been Sharapova’s biggest backer since she was a teen and her world-rank was in the 200s. She has her own line of clothing at the $31-billion sportswear giant. She reaped millions of dollars with her ballet flat, which was the No. 1 female shoe at Nike subsidiary Cole Haan (Nike sold Cole Haan in 2013 and the royalty deal ended for Sharapova). She extended her Nike deal at the start of 2010. The eight-year pact could be worth as much as $70 million, including royalties.
The suspension may seem a bit extreme on the surface in that Meldonium just became banned in 2016, and it really does appear as though Sharapova had not been taking it for “performance-enhancing” purposes.
do people really care like this about whatever happened with sharapova? i figured ppl would shrug this off.
— Aht Uh Mi Hed (@bomani_jones) March 8, 2016
But, this is the pretty typical course of action from a sponsor for PR purposes in a situation like this, and note that this is a “suspended” relationship. Nike probably isn’t ending their relationship with her.
Nike suspends deal with Maria Sharapova, but if she’s not wearing a swoosh at next Slam, I’ll wear Fila for a year. https://t.co/OJEHaDTPFQ
— Chris Chase (@FireChrisChase) March 8, 2016