Sharapova sponsor: We will work with 'courageous' star for many more years

The CEO of Maria Sharapova's racquet sponsor Head has said he "looks forward to many more years of working with Maria", as other sponsors abandon the star over her positive drug test - also calling the star "honest and courageous" over her handling of the issue.

Sharapova in 2015 (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by Tatiana, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Sharapova in 2015 (Image via Wikimedia Commons, by Tatiana, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Late on Monday, Sharapova announced she had failed a drugs test because of her use of a medicine recently added to the banned substances list.

She was initially praised for the honest and proactive nature of her announcement, but she has still lost a number of sponsors over the issue.

On Thursday, PRWeek reported a warning to brands to avoid cutting ties with her too quickly.

On the same day, British number one Andy Murray was widely reported to have criticised Head, the company that supplies racquets to himself, Sharapova and a number of other pros. Of the firm's decision to stick by Sharapova, he said: "I think it's a strange stance given everything that's happened the last few days."

Late morning UK time on Friday, Head released a statement reinforcing that decision.

"As a company, Head has a strict anti-doping policy. We believe the use of WADA banned substances with the intent to enhance performance or gain unfair advantages must be sanctioned," the statement began.

It went on to say that it had "analysed the facts and circumstances in great detail in order to reach a firm conclusion about our association with her in light of her recent announcement", that it understood she had taken meldonium in dosages "which were significantly short of performance enhancing levels" and that there was no "evidence of any intent by Maria of enhancing her performance or trying to gain an unfair advantage".

The statement continued: "Furthermore, we question WADA's decision to add meldonium to its banned substances list in the manner it did; we believe the correct action by WADA would have been to impose a dosage limitation only. In the circumstances we would encourage WADA to release scientific studies that validate their claim that meldonium should be a banned substance.

"The honesty and courage she displayed in announcing and acknowledging her mistake was admirable. Head is proud to stand behind Maria, now and into the future, and we intend to extend her contract. Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her. We look forward to many more years of working with Maria."

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