Nike, by Sharapova's Side Since Age 11, Steps Away

Porsche, Tag Heuer also distance themselves from the tennis star
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2016 2:03 AM CST
Nike, by Sharapova's Side Since Age 11, Steps Away
In this Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, file photo, Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in their fourth round match at the Australian Open.   (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

The fallout from Maria Sharapova's Monday admission that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open was swift. The tennis star found three of her sponsors—Nike, Tag Heuer, and Porsche—swiftly backing away from her. A "saddened and surprised" Nike announced it would suspend their relationship during the course of the investigation. The BBC reports on just how big a deal this is: The 28-year-old's relationship with the company began when she was just 11; the two signed a $70 million, 8-year contract in 2010, and she has her own clothing line with the company. As for the others: Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer had been in talks with Sharapova to renew a sponsorship that ended in 2015, but "in view of the current situation," no renewal will take place.

Porsche, whose contract with Sharapova runs through 2016, has "chosen to postpone planned activities" with her "until further details are released and we can analyze the situation." The drug in question is described by the AP as the "little-known" meldonium. Sharapova, the world's highest-paid female athlete, has been taking it for a decade; it only this year became a banned substance as per World Anti-Doping Agency code, due to its potential to bolster oxygen uptake and endurance. The drug promotes blood flow, and the New York Times quotes Sharapova's description of why she started taking it: "I was getting sick very often. I had a deficiency in magnesium. I had irregular EKG results, and I had a family history of diabetes and there were signs of diabetes." Sharapova is the second athlete Nike has backed away from in the last month. (More Maria Sharapova stories.)

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