It’s been a trying time for Maria Sharapova. The 29-year-old has been in tight corners after being banned from playing tennis for two years for failing a drug test.
Sharapova, however, released an official statement on her Facebook page, stating that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove that she intentionally violated the anti-doping rules by using meldonium, while the tribunal has finally passed a verdict that she did not intentionally violate anti-doping rules.
“Today with their decision of a two-year suspension, the ITF tribunal unanimously concluded that what I did was not intentional. The tribunal found that I did not seek treatment from my doctor for the purpose of obtaining a performance enhancing substance. The ITF spent tremendous amounts of time and resources trying to prove I intentionally violated the anti-doping rules and the tribunal concluded I did not. You need to know that the ITF asked the tribunal to suspend me for four years – the required suspension for an intentional violation — and the tribunal rejected the ITF’s position,” she said in her Facebook post.
Sharapova said that while the tribunal accurately passed a verdict that she did not intentionally violate anti-doping rules, she said that the two-year suspension was “unfairly harsh.”
Sharapova added that she will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Sharapova thanks fans
Fans have been showing their love and support for Sharapova on Twitter and Facebook.
A tired selfie after a good week of practice with no bread baskets for dinner. Not easy after that Europe trip. ???? pic.twitter.com/zHr8CuU6Fe— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) June 3, 2016
“I have missed playing tennis and I have missed my amazing fans, who are the best and most loyal fans in the world. I have read your letters. I have read your social media posts and your love and support has gotten me through these tough days. I intend to stand for what I believe is right and that’s why I will fight to be back on the tennis court as soon as possible,” Sharapova said on her Facebook page.
Nike, Head stand by Sharapova
Despite her two-year ban, sports conglomerate Nike has promised to stand by Sharapova.
“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules. Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban,” read Nike’s statement.
“Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria Sharapova back on court and will continue to partner with her,” added Nike in its statement to the press, according to BBC News.
This was not the case a few months ago. Nike originally suspended their partnership with Sharapova.
“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria Sharapova while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation,” Nike said in March, the Guardian reports.
Racket manufacturer Head has promised to support Sharapova and argued that the ITF has made its decision based on a “flawed process.”
“We believe, based on the facts and circumstances provided to us, that this is a flawed decision. HEAD will continue to stand by Miss Sharapova,” the statement from its chairman Johan Eliasch said, per BBC News.
Sharapova loses out on brand ambassador status
Swiss luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer, which has had a relationship with Sharapova since 2004, has now cut ties with her.
“We had been in talks to extend our collaboration. In view of the current situation, the brand has decided not to renew the contract with Sharapova,” a Tag Heuer spokesperson told the Guardian.
Avon too is dropping Sharapova as the face of its Luck perfume. Avon, however, clarified that this decision had nothing to do with Sharapova’s two-year ban by the ITF. Sharapova has been the brand ambassador for Avon since 2014.
“Avon’s relationship with Maria Sharapova was a limited engagement that focused on one of our fragrances. The engagement is set to expire, and we had not planned to extend this relationship regardless of the current situation,” said Lindsay Fox, Avon’s senior manager of corporate communications, in a press statement via PR Week.
In 2014, Porsche signed a three-year deal with Sharapova and made her its first female ambassador. However, in view of the recent events, Porsche has withdrawn its contract with Sharapova, which was due to end this year.
“We are saddened by the recent news announced by Maria Sharapova. Until further details are released and we can analyze the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities,” Porsche said in a press note (via BBC News).
It remains to be seen whether these brands will renew their contract with Sharapova.
[Photo by Damian Dovarganes/AP Images]