Thursday, 9 June 2016

Despite Ban, Nike Reinstate Endorsement Contract With Sharapova

US sportswear player Nike has decided to reinstate its endorsement contract with Maria Sharapova as the Russian tennis superstar’s commercial partners reacted to reports of her two-year ban from the sport.

In a short statement issued just hours after Sharapova was rocked by a two-year ban for meldonium use, Nike said it was lifting a suspension imposed in March after her drug case was first announced.

Maria Sharapova
Sharapova was yesterday (Wednesday) handed a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) having failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January. An independent tribunal appointed under the 2016 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme found that Sharapova committed an anti-doping rule violation and as a consequence disqualified the affected results and imposed a period of ineligibility of two years, backdated to January 26.

The 29-year-old provided a urine sample on January 26, after her quarter-final match at the Australian Open grand slam tournament in Melbourne. The sample was found to contain meldonium, a metabolic modulator that was included on the 2016 Wada Prohibited List from January 1.

Sharapova has said she will appeal the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Nike has stated it will now resume its backing. Nike suspended its relationship with Sharapova in March after she initially confessed to the failed doping test at the Australian Open. At the time, Nike said that it was “saddened and surprised” by the development and said that it would put its lucrative and long-term endorsement deal on hold while the ITF carried out its investigation.

Nike’s current eight-year deal with Sharapova is said to be worth $70m (€62.8m). Her ban from tennis is set to end at midnight on January 25, 2018, with Nike’s contract also reportedly set to end that year.

"The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules," the Nike statement said.

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