Five-time Grand Slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova almost lost millions of dollars Wednesday. Even though she was suspended from tournament play for two years by the International Tennis Federation, Nike did not drop the athlete. The big athletic wear brand will continue to back her, even though she was found guilty of doping.
Had Nike dropped her, Sharapova would have lost anywhere between $70 million and $100 million, Fox Business reported Wednesday. She gets paid $9 million a year by the company to wear their clothing. Overall, Sharapova has raked in a reported $195 million between endorsements and on-court earnings, the Heavy wrote. Fellow tennis superstar Serena Williams, on the other hand, is worth an estimated $145 million — even though she continues to beat Sharapova on the court.
The company came to the decision since the Russian did not intentionally use illegal substances. "The ITF tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules,” Nike said in a statement Wednesday. "Maria has always made her position clear, has apologized for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban.” It added: "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, used the drug mildronate for nearly a decade, but she tested positive for the substance since it was banned in January 2016. “The contravention of the anti-doping rules was not intentional as Ms. Sharapova did not appreciate that mildronate contained a substance prohibited from 1 January 2016,” the ITF Tribunal said in its decision. “However she does bear sole responsibility for the contravention, and very significant fault, in failing to take any steps to check whether the continued use of this medicine was permissible.”
In a Facebook statement, Sharapova said she would fight the decision. “While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” she said. “I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
Follow me on Twitter @mariamzzarella.