Several sponsors have dropped Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova after she admitted she had tested positive for a banned substance at January's Australian Open
The five-times Grand Slam champion dropped the bombshell at a press conference at a Los Angeles hotel, confessing she had been found to have taken Mildronate - or Meldonium - which was prohibited from January 1 this year.
As one insider pointed out, "She took a prescription heart drug even though she clearly doesn't have a heart condition because that doesn't go with being a professional athlete. She took the drug because it was a potential performance enhancer which is why it was eventually banned when the authorities realised that some athletes were using it. If had been a simple over the counter pick-me-up which had been legal for all that time, it wouldn't look suspicious, but taking a prescription drug that she didn't have a valid medical condition to take, makes it look like she was pushing the boundaries to take a drug that other tennis players wouldn't have free access to.
Although Sharapova claims that she did not know that the substance which she was taking for 10 years was banned, the organisation says that every athlete was informed. A memo was sent out to Russian athletes by Russia's anti-doping agency last September informing them of the decision to ban its use,the news was also published on Russian's anti doping agency website,and WADA's website and she was informed by the WTA. Sharapova, they say, got plenty of memos.
The banned drug is used clinically to treat myocardial infarction and chronic heart failure.
"I don't quite understand why she would use it for flu,magnesium deficiency and family history of diabetes which she actually doesn't have,and it's not even approved in the USA where she lives," an insider commented.
Meanwhile, just hours after her announcement that she was taking a performance enhancing drug for ten years, the 28-year-old Sharapova lost her most lucrative deal - an eight-year contract extended in 2010 for a reported $70million with sportswear brand Nike, where she has her own clothing line.
Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer followed suit, saying that its contract with Sharapova had expired at the end of 2015 and it has pulled out of negotiations on a new agreement. Another one of her major partners, Porsche, said that while they are 'certainly not dumping' Sharapova, they are currently 'not pursuing any further activities' with her.
The International Tennis Federation has confirmed the star will be provisionally suspended from the sport from March 12, however, despite this, the president of the Russian Tennis Federation has said he expects Sharapova to play in the Olympics in Brazil in August this year.
In a statement on Monday night, Nike said: 'We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.'
Sharapova earns $30million a year in endorsements, according to Forbes. Current endorsements include American Express, Avon, Evian, Porsche.Avon said on Tuesday morning that they are not commenting on their contract with Sharapova, who is the face of their fragrance called Luck.
Four - six weeks normal course of treatment for Sharapova drug, not TEN years.
The Latvian company that manufactures meldonium says the normal course of treatment for the drug is four to six weeks - not the 10 years that Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova says she used the substance.
The five-time Grand Slam champion said Monday she failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January for meldonium, which became a banned substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code this year.
The former No. 1 said she had taken meldonium, a heart medicine which improves blood flow and is little-known in the U.S., for a decade following various health problems including regular sicknesses, early signs of diabetes and "irregular" results from echocardiography exams.
"I was first given the substance back in 2006. I had several health issues going on at the time," she said. Sharapova didn't specify whether she had used it constantly since then.
Meldonium was banned because it aids oxygen uptake and endurance, and several athletes in various international sports have already been caught using it since it was banned on Jan. 1. Latvian company Grindeks, which manufactures meldonium, told The Associated Press that four to six weeks was a common course.
"Depending on the patient's health condition, treatment course of meldonium preparations may vary from four to six weeks. Treatment course can be repeated twice or thrice a year," the company said in an emailed statement. "Only physicians can follow and evaluate patient's health condition and state whether the patient should use meldonium for a longer period of time."
Grindeks did not comment when asked whether someone with the symptoms Sharapova described would be a suitable patient for meldonium. The company said it was designed for patients with chronic heart and circulation conditions, those recovering from illness or injury and people suffering with "reduced working capacity, physical and psycho-emotional overload."
Meldonium is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The AP was able to buy vials and tablets of meldonium over the counter in Moscow on Tuesday. Accompanying documentation stated that side effects could include blood pressure changes, irregular heartbeat and skin conditions.
Following Sharapova's drug test failure, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he expected more Russian athletes to test positive for meldonium.
While meldonium was banned as of Jan. 1, the decision to ban it had been announced by WADA and sports organizations as early as September 2015. Sharapova said she received an email with information on the changes in December, but did not read the information at the time.