Nike stands by Sharapova, resumes sponsorship after doping ban
LOS ANGELES, USA - Sportswear giant Nike said Wednesday, June 9 it will resume its sponsorship of Maria Sharapova, insisting the banned Russian star had not intentionally committed a doping offense.
In a short statement issued just hours after Sharapova was rocked by a two-year ban for meldonium use, Nike said it was lifting a suspension imposed in March after her drug case was first announced.
Nike said Wednesday's decision was taken after acknowledgement by the International Tennis Federation tribunal that she had not deliberately broke doping rules. (READ: Pacquiao, Sharapova are not the first to fall out with Nike)
"The ITF Tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules," the Nike statement said.
"Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized 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."
Sharapova, 29, has vowed to fight the ITF suspension which is threatening to end her career, describing her punishment as "unfairly harsh."
In addition to Nike, German luxury car maker Porsche and Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer had all halted their relationship with the former world number one following her announcement that she failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. The United Nations also suspended her as a "goodwill ambassador." – Rappler.com