VIENNA: Two more sponsors reinforced their support of Maria Sharapova on Thursday, one day after the five-time Grand Slam champion was banned for two years for doping.
Racket supplier Head and bottled water company Evian followed sports gear giant Nike by saying they continue to back the 29-year old Russian, who is set to appeal her suspension.
However, Avon announced it would not extend a partnership that was set to expire. But the manufacturer of beauty and personal care products said its decision had nothing to do with Sharapova’s doping ban.
Head CEO Johan Eliasch called the suspension imposed by an International Tennis Federation anti-doping tribunal “a flawed decision,” repeating his comment that the substance Sharapova tested positive for, meldonium, shouldn’t have been added to WADA’s banned list on January 1.
Head backed Sharapova three months ago when she was initially suspended and revealed she failed a doping test at the Australian Open in January. Head even announced a new racket deal with her. Evian said it was still supporting her because her infringement of the doping rules was “not intentional.”
Other brands, including TAG Heuer and Porsche, suspended their support of the world’s highest-earning female athlete in March. Sharapova has announced she will appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
“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 on her Facebook page.