PORTLAND, United States — Nike Inc. is sticking with star Maria Sharapova after the International Tennis Federation suspended her for two years for using a performance-enhancing substance.
“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” Nike said in an e-mailed statement. “Maria has always made her position clear, has apologised for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban.”
Nike had suspended its relationship with Sharapova in March after she admitted to failing a drug test for meldonium. She said at the time she had been taking the drug for health reasons for a decade and had not noticed when it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of Jan. 1. That suspension by Nike has now been lifted, the company said.
“Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her,” Nike said.
Sharapova’s 2010 deal with the sportswear maker was worth $70 million over eight years, a person with knowledge of the contract said at the time. Even though Nike is lifting the suspension, it has not announced any immediate plans to use her in its marketing. Her ban from the court would lift in 2018, which is also when her reported eight-year deal with Nike ends.
By: Matt Townsend; editors: Nick Turner, Kevin Orland and Mark Schoifet.