Sports

BEAVERTON, Oregon (Web Desk) – US sportswear giant Nike has suspended its relationship with Maria Sharapova after the five-time Grand Slam tennis champion admitted failing a drug test.

Also, Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer announced that it will not be renewing its contract with the tennis star, the BBC reported.

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During a press conference on Monday, the Russian revealed that she had failed a drugs test at this year’s Australian Open and immediately brought meldonium to the world’s attention.

Nike said it was “saddened and surprised” at her admission that she tested positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open in January.

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Her relationship with Nike dates back to when she was 11 years old.

“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues,” the company said. “We will continue to monitor the situation.”

Tag Heuer was in talks to extend its deal with Ms Sharapova, which ran out at the end of last year. However, Tag Heuer said those talks have now been suspended and the company has decided not to renew the contract.

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In 2010, the 28-year-old Russian tennis player signed a new eight-year contract with the US sportswear giant worth $70m (£49m) as well as a cut on sales of her own branded clothes.

Sharapova is the world’s highest paid female athlete after earning nearly $30m in 2015 from winnings and endorsements, according to Forbes. These include contracts with Evian, Tag Heuer, Porsche.

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Last month, Nike dropped Manny Pacquiao after the boxer said homosexual people were “worse than animals”. The company also severed ties with cyclist and drugs cheat Lance Armstrong as well as athlete Oscar Pistorius, who killed his girlfriend.

Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a substance she said she had been taking since 2006 for health issues. She said she had taken meldonium after being given it by her family doctor and had known the drug by the name mildronate.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) said she would be provisionally suspended from 12 March.

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What is meldonium?

It is meant for angina patients but athletes like it because it helps their endurance and ability to recover from big efforts.

It increases blood flow, which improves exercise capacity in athletes.

It is on the banned list now because Wada started seeing it in lots of samples and found it does have performance-enhancing properties.

It was on Wada’s ‘watchlist’ for over a year and added to the banned list on 1 January.

Made in Latvia, it is widely available – without prescription and at low cost – in many east European countries, but it is not licensed in most western countries, including the United States.

It is thought that hundreds of athletes have been using it and there are a lot more cases in the pipeline.