After failing a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open, tennis player Maria Sharapova has lost major endorsement deals with Nike, Porsche and Tag Heuer.
According to multiple reports, Sharapova has been the highest paid female athlete for the majority of her career. In a recent Forbes ranking, the Russian tennis player ranked first, earning $29.7 million, even though she is ranked seventh in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings of best players.
In comparison, tennis star Serena Williams is ranked at the very top of the WTA rankings but is third in terms of wealth earned last year, according to the Forbes ranking.
Today, news broke that many of her endorsements are suspended.
In the aftermath, Williams came out in support of Sharapova saying :
“Most people were happy that she was upfront and very honest and showed a lot of courage to admit to what she had done and what she had neglected to look at in terms of the list at the end of the year … It’s just taking the responsibility, which she was willing to do and ready to. I hope for the best for everyone in that situation.”
The Russian tennis player engaged the media during a press conference yesterday to “clarify” why she failed the drug test. Sharapova revealed that she took the drug Meldonium for a decade to treat her diabetes and other ailments. The drug was not a banned substance before this year and has been discovered to have some characteristics of performance-enhancing drugs.
It has also been discovered that the drug has been used to increase blood flow and “enhance” the exercise ability of athletes. The Guardian reports “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance” by virtue of carrying more oxygen to muscle tissue.
This revelation led to a snowball effect.
Nike has had a deal with the Russian tennis player for more than a decade and the deal has been estimated at $70 million.
“We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” Nike said in a statement. “We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues.”
In addition to Nike, other companies like Porsche and Tag Heuer have released statements after Sharapova’s revelation. Tag Heuer is halting the re-negotiation of a 10-year contract with Sharapova.
The Russian tennis player has been a Porsche brand ambassador since 2013, and today the company stated: “Until further details are released and we can analyze the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities.”
Sharapova’s revelation set off a social media firestorm. Her critics attacked the media for its preferential treatment of the player and the favoritism she receives over someone like Williams.
One of her critics on Twitter was former tennis player Jennifer Capriati, who voiced her opinions in various now-deleted tweets preserved by Larry Brown Sports:
“I’m extremely angry and disappointed. I had to lose my career and never opted to cheat no matter what. I had to throw in the towel and suffer. I didn’t have the high priced team of drs that found a way for me to cheat and get around the system and wait for science to catch up.”
“I just think it takes away from the sport and the hard work, if true. Yes its hard to be kicked when down, when injured and out. The advantages are so subtle they can be just a hair width difference. That gives you only what you need to know to reach that extra level.”
“If this medication helped me to comeback again would everyone be alright with me taking it? How much did it take away from the other persons food plate? In my opinion if its all true every title should be stripped. This is other people’s lives as well.”
Sharapova still benefits from white privilege — as she has her entire career. At the moment, none of her titles have been stripped during the 10-year period of the drug use. As many Twitter users have pointed out, Williams would have been crucified if she was found to have been taking drugs to enhance her ability.