Maria Sharapova's Sponsors Declare Their Position Following Positive Drug Test

Christopher SimpsonFeatured Columnist

Tennis star Maria Sharapova speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles on Monday, March 7, 2016. Sharapova says she has failed a drug test at the Australian Open. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

Maria Sharapova's sponsorship contract with sportswear company Nike has been suspended following her positive test for the banned substance meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

Nike are one of three sponsors, alongside TAG Heuer and Porsche, to have clarified their stance on the global tennis star.

However, racket manufacturer Head has indicated that they will extend their contract with Sharapova, citing the "honesty and courage" she showed in announcing her positive test, per the Times' Martyn Ziegler:

According to Mark Lamport-Stokes of Reuters, Nike announced it would be suspending its ties with the athlete pending an investigation. Sharapova claimed she had taken the substance medicinally for a decade, but it was banned on Jan. 1 this year. 

Per Lamport-Stokes, a Nike statement said it was "saddened and surprised" by the news, adding: "We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues."

According to BBC Sport's Dan Roan, watch manufacturer TAG Heuer will also no longer be sponsoring the athlete:

Per the BBC, car company Porsche released the following statement on Tuesday: "We are saddened by the recent news announced by Maria Sharapova. Until further details are released and we can analyse the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities."

Sharapova also has sponsorship deals with Avon perfume and water company Evian.

The Russian will be provisionally suspended from March 12 by the International Tennis Federation while it investigates the circumstances surrounding the positive result.

Two of her compatriots, Ekaterina Bobrova and Eduard Vorganov—an ice dancer and a cyclist respectively—along with four other athletes from Ethiopia and Ukraine have all tested positive for the substance in the last month, per the report.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07:  (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission of image #514192244 with alternate crop.) Tennis player Maria Sharapova addresses the media regarding a failed drug test at The LA Hotel Downtown on March 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Shara
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In a press conference, the 28-year-old said: 

"I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down and I let the sport down. I take full responsibility for it. 

"I know that with this I face consequences, and I don't want to end my career this way. I really hope that I will be given another chance to play this game."

The five-time Grand Slam winner could face up to a four-year ban from the sport, though that could be reduced because it is Sharapova's first offence. There might even be no suspension, "if a player bears no fault or negligence" in the matter.

According to BBC Sport, Sharapova said she received an email from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in December that detailed the changes made to prohibited substances ahead of the new year, but she didn't read it.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was supportive of her:

So, too, were fellow former pros James Blake and Michael Russell, though both called for athletes to show a greater awareness of the substances they take:

Per Lamport-Stokes, Sharapova is the highest-earning sportswoman in the world. The majority of her $29.5 million earnings in 2015 came through sponsorship deals, according to business magazine Forbes.

Because of her age, a lengthy ban would likely put an early end to her glittering career.