Tennis star Maria Sharapova has revealed she tested positive for a banned substance at January's Australian Open tournament and her confession has had a devastating effect on her sponsorships.
Sharapova held a press conference at a downtown Los Angeles hotel on Monday where she told a room full of reporters — many of whom suspected that she would be announcing her retirement following a series of recent injuries — that she had been taking Mildronate, also known as Meldonium, — which has been a banned substance since Jan. 1, 2016.
Sharapova revealed she had been taking the substance "for the past 10 years" saying, "I have been given a medicine called Mildronate by my family doctor."
It's a widely available drug created in Latvia, which according to the BBC is meant for angina patients. However some athletes may use it as it "helps their endurance and ability to recover from big efforts."
"I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues I was having back in 2006. I was getting sick a lot. I was getting the flu every couple of months. I had irregular EKG results, as well as indications of diabetes," Sharapova added.
While Sharapova had been taking the drug legally for 10 years, for 25 days she was not in compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) requirements for banned substances. While Sharapova claims full responsibility for her actions some of her major sponsors have made the decision to cut ties with her, including her most lucrative deal with sports brand Nike.
Hours after her confession Nike decided to suspend its relationship with her — she had a $70 million (around £49 million) contract with them. In a statement on Monday night, Nike said: "We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation."
BREAKING: Nike suspends relationship with Maria Sharapova after the tennis star said she failed a drug test. pic.twitter.com/F262QdNcs7— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) March 8, 2016
Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer followed suit after revealing that their contract with Sharapova had expired in 2015 and they would not be negotiating a new contract, the Daily Mail reports.
Sharapova could face a ban from the sport for up to four years, as per the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme and WADA guidelines, the BBC reports. However her lawyer, John Haggerty, is hopeful that the "extremely mitigating circumstances" will prevent a lengthy ban.
Haggerty reportedly told Sports Illustrated, "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."
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