Maria Sharapova’s racket sponsor Head has announced that unlike many of her other sponsors it will stand by her, choosing to renew their contract .
The company released a statement saying it was “proud” of its relationship with Sharapova and described her as “a role model and woman of integrity”.
It said: “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. Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her.”
The move contrasts with Sharapova’s other sponsors such as Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche who publically distanced themselves from the Russian immediately after it emerged that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open due to a substance taken for health issues.
Head’s chairman and chief executive John Eliasch spoke to the Guardian and set out the reasons for standing by Sharapova, saying: “Although it is beyond doubt that she tested positive for the use of a Wada [World Anti-Doping Agency] banned substance, the circumstantial evidence is equally beyond doubt that the continued use of meldonium after 1 Jaunary, 2016 in the dosages she had been recommended, which were significantly short of performance-enhancing levels, was a manifest error by Maria.
“In the absence of any evidence of any intent by Maria of enhancing her performance or trying to gain an unfair advantage through the use of mildronate, we further conclude this falls into the category of ’honest’ mistakes.”
He added: “We also know that for more than 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. We look forward to many more years of working with Maria.”
In a Facebook post made last night Sharapova thanked those who have stood by her since her announcement and reiterated her desire to continue playing.