US sportswear maker Nike said Monday it was halting its relationship with Maria Sharapova, after the tennis star announced she had tested positive for a banned substance.
"We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova," Nike said in a statement. "We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues."
The 28-year-old Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion, will be provisionally suspended starting 12 March, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said.
She is the seventh athlete in a month to test positive for meldonium, which is used to treat diabetes and low magnesium, and was only banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as of 1 January.
"I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down and I let the sport down," said Sharapova, a teenage tennis prodigy who became the third-youngest Wimbledon champion. "I take full responsibility for it."
"I know that with this I face consequences and I don't want to end my career this way. I really hope that I will be given another chance to play this game," former world No 1 Sharapova told a news conference in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.
Hours after the announcement, one of her biggest sponsors, Nike, said it had suspended its relationship with her and released the statement.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Mar 08, 2016 12:49 PM | Updated Date: Mar 08, 2016 12:50 PM