Sharapova loses sponsors Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche

The companies quickly reacted to her suspension by the International Tennis Federation.
By Ed Adamczyk  |  March 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM
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BEAVERTON, Ore., March 8 (UPI) -- Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche suspended their promotional relationships with tennis star Maria Sharapova after she announced that she failed a drug test.

Sharapova, 28, announced she had taken the prescribed medication Meldonium for the past 10 years because of her magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes. In large doses it is believed to improve endurance and accelerate recovery from injuries, and has been on the list of banned drugs since the start of 2016.

In her admission, she said, "I did fail the test and I take full responsibility for it."

Her drug test was conducted at the Australian Open in January. She will be provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation.

Sharapova's endorsement deals are worth tens of millions of dollars each. Her 2010 eight-year contract with sportswear maker Nike earned her $70 million. Watchmaker Tag Heuer announced it would not renew its contract with her, which expired at the end of 2015, and automaker Porsche said it was "postponing planned activities" with Sharapova until it can "analyze the situation."

The Russian-born Sharapova, now a U.S. resident, is among the most visible stars in women's sports. Through endorsements and tennis winnings, she earned over $30 million in 2015. One of only 10 women to achieve the Grand Slam, winning tennis' four major tournaments in her career, she is also an Olympic gold medalist, and at six feet, two inches tall, has had a prominent modeling career and her own clothing brand.

She also has contracts with Luck, an Avon perfume, and Evian water. Neither Avon nor Evian has commented on her future.

The companies' reaction reflects a growing attitude in business that sports endorsers, in whom businesses invest heavily, can provoke a negative reaction toward the company. Nike dropped its ties with cyclist Lance Armstrong after he admitted drug use, with sprinter Oscar Pistorius after he was convicted of killing his girlfriend and boxer Manny Pacquiao after his homophobic comments.

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