Maria Sharapova’s racket sponsor, Head, is planning to extend its contract with her despite her recent confession of failing a drug test at the Australian Open.
CEO Johan Eliasch said in a statement that Head had concluded Sharapova had used the banned drug Meldonium in levels that would not have enhanced her performance and that the failed test “falls into the category of ‘honest’ mistakes.”
“For more than a decade, Maria Sharapova has been a role model and woman of integrity,” Eliasch said in the statement. “The honesty and courage she displayed in announcing and acknowledging her mistake was admirable. Head is proud to stand by Maria, now and into the future and we intend to extend her contract.
“Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her.”
Sharapova, 28, had been taking Meldonium legally for 10 years before it was added to the World Anti Doping Agency’s list of banned substances, but she was reportedly warned five times over the course of a year that it would soon become illegal.
On Monday, Nike, Porsche and Tag Huer announced they would discontinue their sponsorship of Sharapova in light of the failed drug test.
Sharapova will be suspended from tennis beginning on March 12, and could face a four-year ban from the sport, according to BBC.
- Erin Flynn