Maria Sharapova: Nike Suspends Star's Contract Over Meldonium Positive

Maria Sharapova will be provisionally suspended on March 12 for her use of a banned drug.
Maria Sharapova in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2016. The former world number one tennis player tested positive for meldonium in January. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Nike, the sportswear giant, has suspended its contract with Maria Sharapova for the duration of a doping investigation into the tennis star's use of meldonium.

Sharapova revealed in a press conference on Monday that she had tested positive for the drug, which can be used to treat angina, at the Australian Open on January 26, having failed to note that it had been newly placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (W.A.D.A.) list of banned drugs for 2016. Though meldonium has medical uses, W.A.D.A. also recognises it as a potential performance-enhancer.

The five-time Grand Slam winner from Russia said she had been using meldonium, under the name mildronate, since 2006, to treat diabetes and an irregular heartbeat when she was prescribed it by her doctor. She will be provisionally suspended from competition by the International Tennis Federation (I.T.F.) from March 12.

"We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues," Nike said in a statement, adding that it was "saddened and surprised" by the news. Sharapova's contract with Nike has lasted since her teenage years and includes her own clothing line.

Meldonium, which is not licensed for sale in the United States, where Sharapova lives, has been in the news multiple times already this year.

Abebe Aregawi, the Swedish world 1,500 metres champion from 2013, was provisionally suspended herself in February after an 'A' sample tested positive for the drug. Days after Aregawi, Endeshaw Negesse, the 2015 Tokyo Marathon winner, was also caught out.

In the same month, Eduard Vorganov, the professional cyclist for the Russian Katusha team, tested positive for meldonium.