In a surprising turn of events, sportswear and accessories brand Nike has decided to retain its endorsement deal with Maria Sharapova following her two-year ban from tennis due to doping
On Wednesday, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) banned tennis champion Maria Sharapova for two years following her failed doping test earlier this year.
Sharapova has described the ban as unfairly harsh and will be appealing the decision.
At the time of the provisional suspension in March, Nike distanced itself from the athlete by suspending its relationship with her, saying they were saddened and surprised that she’d failed the drug test.
|Nike sticks with Sharapova despite two-year ban|
“The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules. 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,” the statement read.
Sharapova’s relationship with Nike has been worth over $70 million (R1 billion) over its tenure, and while the company has lifted its suspension it’s not yet certain if they will use Sharapova in any of their marketing during the period of her ban.
Nike has a reputation of sticking with athletes that find themselves in sticky situations. Take Tiger Woods for example: while the majority of his sponsors dropped him following reports of infidelity, Nike stood by him even after he took leave from the sport to deal with his ‘”personal problems”.
Sources: BBC , Bloomberg