On Monday, Maria Sharapova, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, announced that she had tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open.
Sharapova tested positive on 26 January, the same day that she lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. The tennis player is set to be provisionally suspended until there’s a ruling.
“For the past 10 years, I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago, after I received a letter from the ITF [International Tennis Federation], I found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know,” she said.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Sharapova lawyer John Haggerty said that he is in talks with the ITF and explained that 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’.
One of Sharapova’s longest-standing sponsors, Nike, has already suspended its relationship with the athlete until the investigation has been concluded.
“We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues [and] we will continue to monitor the situation,” Nike said in a statement.
In 2010. Sharapova signed an eight-year extension with Nike and has her own clothing line with the giant sports brand. It’s reported that her endorsement with Nike is worth up to $70 million (R1,1 billion).
Sharapova said that she knows that she’s let her fans and the sport she “loves so deeply” down.
“I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I’m given another chance to play this game,” she concluded.