This is shocking news from Maria Sharapova, the golden girl of tennis. However, the story isn’t quite as scandalous as it sounds. Ten years ago, Sharapova was prescribed a drug called Mildronate. The medication was given to the tennis champ to help with magnesium deficiency, an irregular EKG, frequent flu, and early signs of diabetes, a genetic condition in Sharapova’s family. Unbeknownst to Sharapova, the International Tennis Federation placed Mildronate on the banned list in January. It wasn’t until she received a letter from the Federation informing her that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open that Sharapova realized she was no longer allowed to take Mildronate.
Sharapova has played a limited number of tournaments after suffering numerous shoulder injuries. She was scheduled to play in the Paribas Open at Indian Wells, but has withdrawn while the investigation takes place. Perhaps, the bigger loss, is the sponsorship withdrawal, the likes of which have made the tennis star the highest paid female athlete for over a decade. Nike has stated “We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” and “have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues.” Sharapova has 2 years remaining on an 8 year deal with Nike that includes her own clothing line. The Nike deal is worth an estimated $70 million. Other sponsors who are suspending contract negotiations are TAG Heuer and Porsche.
Many believed that yesterday’s press conference would be to announce Sharapova’s retirement. In her statement, the 28 year old said, “I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game…If I was ever going to announce a retirement it would not be in a downtown LA hotel with a fairly ugly carpet.”