Maria Sharapova, who on Monday admitted that she failed a drug test at this year’s Australian Open, has now lost several major sponsors in the aftermath of her announcement.
Sharapova, a former world champion currently ranked 7th in the world, told reporters on Monday that she tested positive for meldonium, which was banned at the start of 2016. Sharapova said she has taken the drug for years and was not aware that it recently became illegal to use.
“I did fail the test, and I take full responsibility for it,” the tennis star said. “It’s very important for you to understand that for 10 years, this medicine was not on WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency]’s banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years. But on Jan. 1, the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I did not know. … I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues I was having in 2006.”
Now, Sharapova, who is one of the highest-earning female athletes in the world according to Forbes, has had several major companies cut ties with her in the last 24 hours.
Nike was the first company to put out a statement.
“We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” the company said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
Forbes reported that an eight-year contract extension Sharapova signed with Nike in 2010 could be worth as much as $70 million.
Porsche and watchmaker TAG Heuer also put out statements distancing themselves from Sharapova.
Evian water also put out a statement saying the company was surprised by the news but has not yet cut ties, opting instead to “follow closely the development of the investigation.”
The Tennis Anti-Dopping Programme said in a statement that Sharapova “will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case,” according to NPR.
Sharapova said during her press conference Monday that she hopes the scandal does not end her career. She maintains that she was using the drug to treat a variety of health issues over the last decade but the drug’s manufacturer told ESPN that the normal prescribed period of use for meldonium is just four to six weeks. That article also says that meldonium is well-known to increase endurance, having been giving to Soviet troops in the 1980s to increase their stamina while fighting in Afghanistan.