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Despite ban, Nike sticks with Maria Sharapova

Lukmon Oloyede.

Despite been handed a two-year ban by an independent tribunal for her failed drug test during the Australian Open (a ruling she will appeal), Maria Sharapova’s biggest corporate sponsor Nike has resumed the endorsement deal it suspended in the immediate aftermath of her confession in March.

US sports goods giant Nike has said it will resume its sponsorship of Maria Sharapova, insisting the banned Russian star had not intentionally committed a doping offence.

The 29-year-old provided a urine sample on January 26, after her quarter-final match at the Australian Open grand slam tournament in Melbourne. The sample was found to contain meldonium, a metabolic modulator that was included on the 2016 Wada Prohibited List from January 1.

Sharapova has said she will appeal the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and Nike has stated it will now resume its backing. Nike suspended its relationship with Sharapova in March after she initially confessed to the failed doping test at the Australian Open. At the time, Nike said that it was “saddened and surprised” by the development and said that it would put its lucrative and long-term endorsement deal on hold while the ITF carried out its investigation.

Sharapova signed an eight-year deal – which included a personal clothing line – with Nike in 2010. It was worth an estimated $70 million, the most lucrative endorsement contract ever signed by a female athlete.

“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” Nike said in a statement. “Maria has always made her position clear, has apologised for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban. 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.”


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