Racket firm Head give Sharapova benefit of doubt

Thu Mar 10, 2016 8:23am EST
 
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Racket firm Head has extended its contract with five-times grand slam champion Maria Sharapova despite her failed drugs test at this year's Australian Open, CEO Johan Eliasch said on Thursday.

The 28-year-old Russian will be provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from this weekend after she admitted at a news conference on Monday taking the banned substance meldonium.

Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer cut ties with Sharapova this week, while Nike and Porsche have distanced themselves from her.

However, Eliasch said Sharapova, under contract with Head since 2011, had 'earned the benefit of the doubt' after making an 'honest' mistake.

"For a decade Maria Sharapova has been a role model and woman of integrity who has inspired millions of fans around the world to play and watch tennis," he said in a statement.

"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.

"We look forward to working with her and to announcing new sponsorships in the weeks and months ahead."

A statement issued later confirmed that the contract had been signed and extended.   Continued...

 
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 24, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter