Maria Sharapova`s multi-million dollar business empire has been plunged into turmoil as sponsors began severing ties with the Russian tennis star on Tuesday a day after she admitted failing a drug test.
The world`s richest sportswoman announced Monday that she had tested positive for Meldonium, a drug she said she had been taking since 2006 but was only added to the banned list this year.
Her sponsors were quick to react with US sportswear giant Nike, German luxury car maker Porsche and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer all halting their relationship with the former world number one.
The 28-year-old, whose rags-to-riches story was the stuff of Hollywood dreams, now risks a ban which could see her carefully constructed marketing strategy collapse.
The holder of five Grand Slams and 35 WTA titles, the Russian who arrived penniless with her family in the United States, is as much a businesswoman as a sportswoman.
Despite winning just two WTA titles in 2015 she was the highest paid sportswoman that year, earning $30 million mostly from advertising, according to American magazine Forbes. Her fortunes is estimated at $200 million.
In a sign of what the affair could mean to Sharapova`s mass of money-spinning endorsements, Nike said it was “saddened and surprised” by the news.
“We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues,” the US sportswear giant said.
Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer followed by confirming they would not be renewing their marketing contract with Sharapova.
“Maria Sharapova was under contract with TAG Heuer until December 31th, 2015. We had been in talks to extend our collaboration,” a company statement said.
“In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations and has decided not to renew the contract with Ms Sharapova.”
Porsche became the third big-name sponsor to distance themselves, stating “until more details are known and we can analyse the situation, we have decided to suspend planned activities (with Sharapova)”.
Sharapova signed a three-year deal to be brand ambassador for Porsche in April 2013. The Russian also won the WTA indoor tournament in Stuttgart, which is sponsored by the car manufacturers, in 2012, 2013 and 2014, with the champion driving off in a brand-new sports car.Sharapova tested positive for Meldonium, a drug she said she had been taking since 2006 but was only added to the banned list this year.