Nike have suspended ties with Maria Sharapova after the tennis superstar admitted she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.
The 28-year-old held a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday to confirm she had taken meldonium, which is understood to have been legal to take prior to 1 January 2016.
But US sportswear giant Nike, in a statement, have said they are “saddened and surprised” by Sharapova’s admission.
SUBMIT AN ARTICLE
Apply to become a GMS writer by signing up and submitting a 250-word test article: http://gms.to/haveyoursay5
Article continues below
"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” Nike said in a statement released early on Tuesday, per BBC Sport.
"We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues."
Article continues below
'Sharapova faces up to four-year ban'
Sharapova now faces a ban of up to four years from the sport - per the Telegraph - as the investigation continues.
In response to the announcement, WTA chief executive, Steve Simon, said: “I am very saddened to hear this news about Maria. Maria is a leader and I have always known her to be a woman of great integrity.
“Nevertheless, as Maria acknowledged, it is every player's responsibility to know what they put in their body and to know if it is permissible.
“This matter is now in the hands of the Tennis Anti-Doping Program and its standard procedures. The WTA will support the decisions reached through this process.”
Sharapova admits 'huge mistake'
Sharapova, who burst onto the scene in 2004 by winning Wimbledon as a 17-year-old and is one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world, admitted she has made a “huge mistake” and said “I have let my fans down”.
“I have to take full responsibility for it,” the tennis star continued, “it’s my body and I have to be responsible for what I put in my body.
"For the past 10 years I have been taking a medicine called mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the letter from the ITF found out it also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know.
"It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on Wada's [World Anti-Doping Agency] banned list and I had been legally taking that medicine for the past 10 years.
"But on 1 January the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known."
She added: "I received an email on 22 December from Wada about the changes happening to the banned list and you can see prohibited items, and I didn't click on that link."
It was initially suspected that Sharapova would announce her retirement; very few - if any - suspected her surprise press conference was related to drugs.
"I made a huge mistake," she said.
"I have let my fans down, and let the sport down that I have been playing since the age of four that I love so deeply.
"I know that with this I face consequences and I don't want to end my career this way. I really hope to be given another chance to play this game."
"I know many of you thought that I would be retiring today but if I was ever going to announce my retirement it would not be in a downtown Los Angeles hotel with this fairly ugly carpet.”
Should Maria Sharapova be banned from tennis? Have your say by leaving a comment below.