Nike has once again moved swiftly, formally distancing itself from another athlete endorser who’s now embroiled in controversy. Just two weeks after ending its relationship with Manny Pacquiao following particularly abhorrent homophobic comments, the brand has suspended its relationship with tennis star Maria Sharapova.
The move comes on the heels of Sharapova’s announcement that she tested positive for the banned substance meldonium during the Australian Open in January. The former world number 1 claims she had been taking the drug for a decade for health purposes, and overlooked the fact that it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances at the beginning of 2016.
Nike moved quickly, however, releasing the following statement Monday.
We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova. We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.
Sharapova will be provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation beginning March 12. She will eventually be offered the opportunity to submit medical records backing her claims that could affect the length of that suspension, although she would also need to address why she spent a decade using a drug whose own manufacturer generally recommends use for three to four weeks at a time, barring a doctor’s orders saying otherwise.
Nike has not indicated how long the relationship will be suspended for, and whether a potential successful appeals process or the length of Sharapova’s tennis suspension could affect the company’s own decision-making.