Luxury carmaker Porsche suspended tennis player Maria Sharapova as its branch ambassador, following her admission that she failed a doping test. The Russian tennis star was not able to participate in the Australian Open after failing the drug test.
Sharapova later explained that she is taking a substance for health reasons. Porsche release a statement saying that it deeply regrets the latest developments about its former brand ambassador. However, the company deemed it necessary to suspend planned activities until further details emerge for the company to correctly assess the situation.
Being the world’s highest-paid female athlete for the 11th consecutive year last year, Forbes magazine estimates Sharapova’s off-court earnings alone to be more than $200 million. It was previously reported that Sharapova signed a three-year deal with Porsche back in April 2013.
According to Forbes, the Russian tennis star earned $29.7 million last year, most of it from appearances, endorsement and royalties. Co-founder of sports sponsorship agency Generate Rupert Pratt explained that this is now an era of zero tolerance for sponsors.
Due to the intense scrutiny corporations are now exposed to, it is no longer deemed acceptable for corporations to ‘stand by your man’ – a reference to previous corporate leniency toward erring star athletes. It has been one stellar career for Sharapova prior to this setback.
Her break came in 2004 when she shot up the ranks in women’s tennis after she won Wimbledon at the young age of 17. It shocked the whole world to learn last Monday that she tested positive for meldonium, a treatment for diabetes and low magnesium.
Sharapova explained that she had been taking the substance for almost a decade for health reasons and had not read the email informing her of a ban on its use in sports.
The ban was only recently imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency starting Jan 1 this year. For now, she has been provisionally suspended until March 12 and might even be disqualified from playing for Russia in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.