Once a superstar of the tennis world, Maria Sharapova is seeing sponsors give her a brutal backhand of their own. A day after she tested positive for a recently banned substance, meldonium, at January's Australian Open, Nike cut ties with the 28-year-old tennis star, who also happens to be the highest-paid female athlete for the last 11 years.
"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova," the company said in a statement Monday. "We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation."
Sharapova signed an 8-year contract with Nike in 2010 worth an estimated $70 million.
Another sponsor dropping off Team Maria is TAG Heuer: "Until further details are released and we can analyze the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities," the company told NPR. But not all sponsors have dropped Sharapova. Evian reportedly will "follow closely the development of the investigation" before any taking further action.
The Tennis Anti-Doping Program said in a statement that Sharapova "will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case."
And, according to NPR, “Sharapova could also face a ban by the International Tennis Federation that would keep her from playing for Russia at the Olympics in Rio.”
Sharapova claims she was taking the drug since 2006 because of health issues. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency only added the substance to the prohibited list this year.
Now the tennis world is sounding off about Sharapova's recent news. Serena Williams, for one, was supportive of her rival, stating: "Most people were surprised and shocked by Maria, but at the same time, most people were happy that she was up front and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year. With that being said, it’s just taking responsibility, which she has admitted that she was willing to do and ready to do."
Check out Sharapova talking to Larry king about her humble beginnings here:
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