Nike has suspended its long-standing relationship with Maria Sharapova after the tennis champion admitted failing a drugs test. The company, which has worked with Maria since she was 11-years-old, said it was both "saddened and surprised" at her admission that she tested positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open in January.
"We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while our investigation continues," Nike said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor the situation."
Maria Sharapova has admitted failing a drugs test
Maria's admission has shocked the tennis world. The 28-year-old – who is the highest-paid female in sport, earning more than $20million annually – held a press conference in LA to reveal that she had tested positive for a recently banned drug.
The sports star said she had been taking melodonium "for the past 10 years" after being given it by "my family doctor" for health reasons, but had known the drug as mildronate. "A few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF (International Tennis Federation), I found out it also has another name of melodonium, which I did not know," she said.
"I did take the test and take full responsibility for it," the 28-year-old said in a press conference
"It is very important for you to understand that, for 10 years, this medicine was not on Wada's banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine for the past 10 years."
"But, on 1 January, the rules changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known."
The five-time Grand Slam champion will be provisionally suspended from 12 March
She added that Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) had sent her an email on 22 December informing her of changes to the banned list, but she had failed to "click" on the link that would have listed the prohibited items. "I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it," she said. "I made a huge mistake."
Maria's lawyer, John Haggerty, told Sports Illustrated he was hopeful that she would avoid a lengthy ban. "We think there is a laundry list of extremely mitigating circumstances that, once taken into consideration, would result in dramatically reducing any sanction that they might want to impose on Maria," he said.