Three of the world’s premier brands – Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer – have suspended ties with Maria Sharapova after she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
One of the best female tennis players of her generation, Sharapova said at a news conference on Monday that she had been taking meldonium for health reasons for a decade and had not noticed when it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of January 1.
Failing the test could cost the tennis player a spot at the Rio 2016 Olympics and the $298,000 she won in January at the Australian Open.
“We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” said Kejuan Wilkins, a spokesman for Nike, which has worked with the player for more than a decade.
“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Luxury carmaker Porsche, a division of Volkswagen, said on Tuesday it would suspend tennis player Sharapova as its brand ambassador in light of her admission that she failed a doping test.
“We regret the current news about Maria Sharapova. Until further details emerge and we are able to analyse the situation, we have decided to suspend planned activities,” Porsche said in a statement.
Sharapova extended her sponsorship agreement with the Beaverton, Oregon-based company in 2010 by eight years for $70 million in a deal that included a line of dresses designed by the player, according to a person with knowledge of the contract at that time.
Meldonium, which is made by pharmaceutical company Grindeks AS, is used to treat heart conditions and brain circulation disorders in Latvia and Russia. (It is not approved for use in the US.)
But the company also says on its website that meldonium “improves physical capacity and mental function … in healthy people”. A handful of athletes, including a Russian cyclist and six Georgian wrestlers, have tested positive for the drug this year.
The 28-year-old Sharapova, who has been battling injuries this season, won about $298,000 at the 2016 Australian Open, where she lost in the quarter-finals to Serena Williams.