MARIA Sharapova's woes have mounted after Nike announced it has suspended its relationship with the five-time Grand Slam champion on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time) following her admission that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova," the apparel giant said in its official statement. "We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation."
Sharapova announced in a press conference earlier on Monday that she was informed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) that she tested positive for meldonium, which was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances last January 1.
Before that, the 28-year-old tennis star revealed she had been taking the drug for 10 years.
With her failed drug test which was conducted on January 26, the current world No.6 faces provisional suspension by the ITF beginning March 12. The ITF's anti-doping program hands down a four-year suspension for those who test positive of banned substances, but can be reduced if the agency finds no significant fault from the athlete or if it's the first offense.
On top of the ITF suspension, Sharapova also temporarily loses Nike's support, a partnership that was last renewed in 2010 in an eight-year deal worth $70 million.
This is not the first time Nike has suspended ties with its endorsers embroiled in controversy, and it only means that the suspended athlete will no longer receive payment and will not be considered for use in upcoming ad campaigns until Nike lifts the suspension or terminates the contract entirely after the investigation.
"I know that with this, I face consequences," said Sharapova in her press conference. "I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."