Maria Sharapova starts to count cost of failed drug test, likely ban

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Maria Sharapova's Failed  Drug Test at Australian Open

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer said on Tuesday it was severing ties with Maria Sharapova as the world's highest-paid female athlete started to count the cost of a failed drug test and likely ban from tennis.

Sports firm Nike and German luxury car maker Porsche also said they were suspending their relationship with the five-times Grand Slam champion as the 28-year-old Russian awaits a decision on whether she will be banned.

The failed drug test at January's Australian Open, one of four annual Grand Slam events, will be costly for her at a time when sports bodies and sponsors are taking a tough line following a series of corruption and doping scandals.

SEE MORE: Sharapova's confession shakes the tennis world

Sharapova earned $29.7 million last year, Forbes magazine reported, and most of it came from endorsements, appearances and royalties rather than her victories on court.

She was world's highest-paid female athlete last year for the 11th consecutive year, and Forbes put her off-court career earnings at more than $200 million.

"We're now entering a zero tolerance era for sponsors," said Rupert Pratt, co-founder of sports sponsorship agency Generate. "It is now seen as not acceptable to 'stand by your man' because of the amount of scrutiny corporates are now under".

Sharapova, who lit up women's tennis when she won Wimbledon in 2004 as a 17-year-old and is still ranked among the top players, announced on Monday she had tested positive for meldonium, which is used to treat diabetes and low magnesium.

She said she had been taking the substance for a decade for health reasons and had not read an email informing her that a ban on its use in sport, imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), had come into force on Jan. 1.

She will be provisionally suspended from playing tennis from March 12 and could be prevented from competing for Russia at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this year.

Sharapova's deal with Tag Heuer had expired at the end of 2015, and the company had been in talks to extend the collaboration, it said on Tuesday.

"In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations and has decided not to renew the contract," TAG Heuer, a unit of French luxury goods group LVMH, said in a statement.

Porsche, a division of Volkswagen, said it was suspending Sharapova's role as its brand ambassador.

"We regret the current news about Maria Sharapova. Until further details emerge and we are able to analyze the situation, we have decided to suspend planned activities," it said.

It followed Nike (NKE.N), the world's largest sportswear maker, which said it was "saddened and surprised" by the news when it announced it was putting ties on hold with the player.

Another sponsor, cosmetics maker Avon Products Inc (AVP.N), declined to comment on its endorsements.


Maria Sharapova through the years
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Maria Sharapova starts to count cost of failed drug test, likely ban
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07: Tennis player Maria Sharapova reacts as she addresses the media regarding a failed drug test at The LA Hotel Downtown on March 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Sharapova, a five-time major champion, is currently the 7th ranked player on the WTA tour. Sharapova, withdrew from this weekÂs BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells due to injury. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Maria Sharapova of Russia gets set for a serve from Monica Seles during their match Thursday, March 7, 2002, in Indian Wells, Calif. Seles won the match 6-0, 6-2. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts after missing a shot during her semi-final match against Monica Seles of the United States in the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge tennis tournament in Hong Kong Friday, Jan. 3, 2003. Seles won 6-3, 6-0. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Russia's Maria Sharapova returns to Yugoslavia's Jelena Dokic, during their Women's Singles, third round match on the Number One Court, on the sixth day of the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, Saturday, June 28, 2003. Sharapova won the match 6-4, 6-4.(AP Photo/Dave Caulkin)
Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova, center, smiles during a demonstration session at Hong Kong's Victoria Tennis Court Sunday, Jan. 4, 2004. Sharapova will have friendly match with Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin of the United States, and Russia's Elena Dementieva on Jan. 8-10. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts after defeating Yulia Beygeizimer of the Ukraine in their Women's Singles, first round match at Wimbledon, Monday June 21, 2004. (AP Photo/Sang Tan) ** EDITORIAL USE ONLY **
Maria Sharapova, of Russia, serves to Amelie Mauresmo (not shown), of France, during their semifinal match at the WTA Championships at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005. Mauresmo won, 7-6, 6-3. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Maria Sharapova from Russia serves against Justine Henin-Hardenne from Belgium during her WTA Championships tennis tournament semi-final match in Madrid, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2006. Justine Henin-Hardenne won the match in two sets 6-2, 7-6. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates winning her match against fellow countrywoman Anna Chakvetadze during the Sony Ericsson Championships match in Madrid, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007. Sharapova won 6-2, 6-2. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Russia's tennis player Maria Sharapova looks on during a press conference, Saturday Dec. 29, 2007, in Singapore where she will play against compatriot Anna Chakvetadze at an exhibition match on Sunday. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Maria Sharapova, of Russia, returns the ball against Daniela Hantuchova at the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., Wednesday, March 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Tennis Player Maria Sharapova unveils a limited edition Canon PowerShot diamond encrusted camera on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008, in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Maria Sharapova of Russia holds the trophy after the final match against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo, Japan, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009. Former No. 1-ranked Sharapova won her first tournament since returning from a 10-month injury layoff when Jankovic was forced to retire in the first set. Jankovic retired with an injured right arm trailing 5-2 in the first set. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Russia's Maria Sharapova waves to the public after defeating compatriot Ksenia Pervak during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Tuesday, May 25, 2010. (AP Photo/Laurent Baheux)
Professional tennis player Maria Sharapova watches the New Jersey Nets vs. the Charlotte Bobcats in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 11, 2011 in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts during a tennnis match against Samantha Stosur of Australia at the WTA championship in Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011. Sharapova lost to Stosur 6-1, 7-5. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Maria Sharapova of Russia, serves to Roberta Vinci of Italy, during their match at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Russia's Maria Sharapova looks up after beating Australian Samantha Stosur 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 during their quarterfinal match at the Porsche tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, Friday, April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Maria Sharapova arrives at the 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target launch event at Spring Studio on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP)
Maria Sharapova of the Manila Mavericks autographs large tennis balls of fans following her win over Kristina Mladenovic of the UAE Royals in their IPTL (International Premier Tennis League) Women's Singles match Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the Mall of Asia Arena at suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. The IPTL, featuring four teams, introduces a new format in tennis and a chance for a championship prize of $1-million dollars. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates after defeating Flavia Pennetta of Italy during their singles match at the WTA tennis finals in Singapore on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)


Sharapova, who lives in the United States, is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium.

She said her family doctor had been giving her mildronate, also called meldonium, for 10 years after she frequently became sick, had irregular EKG results, a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes.

"It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA's banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine. But on January the first, the rules have changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance."

Sharapova competed in one tournament while using meldonium as a banned substance.

"I made a huge mistake. I know that with this I face consequences and I don't want to end my career this way," she said.

Russia's tennis chief leapt to the player's defense, and said he expected the player to compete at this summer's Olympic Games in Rio.

"I think this is just a load of nonsense," Shamil Tarpishchev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation, said. "The sportsmen take what they are given by the physiotherapists and by the doctors."

Meldonium is used to treat chest pain and heart attacks among other conditions, but some researchers have linked it to increased athletic performance and endurance. It is listed by WADA among its prohibited metabolic modulators, along with insulin, and some researchers say it can also help recovery.

It is not approved in the United States but is available in Russia, Latvia and other countries in that region.

Over the past month, Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi, and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium. Russian news agency R-Sport quoted the Volleyball Federation of Russia as saying Russian volleyball player Alexander Markin had also tested positive for the substance.

Sports bodies have taken a tough line in recent months to wipe out doping and corruption. The world athletics' governing body, the IAAF, has suspended Russia's athletics federation over doping and soccer's governing body, FIFA, has removed its top leaders and began an overhaul in a corruption scandal.

Sharapova is the most prominent tennis player to test positive for a banned substance in recent years and the biggest name since Martina Hingis was banned in 2008 after recording a positive test for a metabolite of cocaine

The International Tennis Federation's anti-doping program calls for a four-year suspension for a positive test.

That ban can be reduced in various circumstances, such as if the player shows no significant fault or negligence. If a player bears no fault or negligence, there is no suspension.

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