The five-times Grand Slam champion dropped the bombshell at a press conference at a Los Angeles hotel, confessing she had been found to have taken Mildronate – or Meldonium – which was prohibited from January 1 this year.
Just hours later, the 28-year-old lost her most lucrative deal – an eight-year contract extended in 2010 for a reported $70 million with sportswear brand Nike, where she has her own clothing line.
Swiss watch brand TAG Heuer followed suit, saying that its contract with Sharapova had expired at the end of 2015 and it has pulled out of negotiations on a new agreement.
Another one of her major partners, Porsche, said that while they are ‘certainly not dumping’ Sharapova, they are currently ‘not pursuing any further activities’ with her.
The International Tennis Federation has confirmed the star will be provisionally suspended from the sport from March 12, however, despite this, the president of the Russian Tennis Federation has said he expects Sharapova to play in the Olympics in Brazil in August this year.
In a statement on Monday night, Nike said: ‘We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.’
Sharapova earns $30million a year in endorsements, according to Forbes. Current endorsements include American Express, Avon, Evian, Porsche.
We have enjoyed a very good relationship with Maria Sharapova during our partnership,’ Viktoria Wohlrapp, Head of Sports Communications at Porsche told MailOnline
‘We are not to make any fast assumptions and will wait for the outcome of the investigation into the drug. In the meantime, we will not be pursuing any further activities, as these are strong allegations so it would not be appropriate
‘This could go either way, but we are certainly not dumping her.
Avon said on Tuesday morning that they are not commenting on their contract with Sharapova, who is the face of their fragrance called Luck.
At a press conference which many assumed would be to announce her retirement after a spate of injuries, she delivered what is catastrophic news for her, the sport and women’s tennis in particular.
‘I had legally been taking this for ten years,’ said Sharapova, who conceded that she had received a notification from the International Tennis Federation on December 22 that it was being outlawed. She admitted that she did not follow an information link that was provided.
‘I take responsibility for my professionalism in my job and I made a big mistake. I know there will be consequences and I don’t want to end my career this way. I really hope I will be given another chance to play tennis again. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I have let my fans down.
‘I know many of you thought I was retiring but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would probably not be in a downtown Lost Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.’
‘It made me healthy and that is why I continued to take it,’ Sharapova said of the banned substance after taking a small number of questions from the floor.
‘I am still working through my injury and that is the reason I withdrew from Palm Springs, because I have still not healed my injury.
Asked if she knew what the consequences of her failed test may be, Sharapova added: ‘I do not. This is very new for me, I just received the letter a few days ago and I will be working with the ITF.’
The full statement from the ITF made clear Sharapova accepted the charge against her.
It said: ‘Following the statement made by Maria Sharapova in a press conference today, the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) can confirm the following:
‘On 26 January 2016, Ms Sharapova provided an anti-doping sample to the TADP in association with her participation in the 2016 Australian Open.
‘That sample was analysed by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited laboratory, which returned a positive for meldonium, which is a prohibited substance under the WADA Code and, therefore also the TADP.
‘In accordance with Article 8.1.1 of the TADP, Ms Sharapova was charged on 2 March with an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.
‘Ms Sharapova has accepted the finding of meldonium in her sample collected on 26 January.
‘As meldonium is a non-specified substance under the WADA (and, therefore, TADP) list of Prohibited Substances and Prohibited Methods, Ms Sharapova will be provisionally suspended with effect from 12 March, pending determination of the case.’
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