TAG Heuer ends partnership with Maria Sharapova
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko may have this morning admitted that Russia needs to get to grips with its doping problem, but their tennis chief, Shamil Tarpishchev, appears to have awoken in a rather more defiant mood.
He has said that, despite the looming threat of an ITF ban, he expects Sharapova to compete at this summer's Olympics in Rio, before going on to describe her failed test as "a load of nonsense".
The head honcho previously landed himself in hot water back in 2014, when Serena Williams - Sharapova's principal WTA rival - slammed him for using "extremely sexist, racist and bullying" language, after he described her and sister Venus as the "Williams brothers".
The WTA took swift action, fining Tarpishchev $25,000 and disqualifying him from working in an organisational capacity for a year.
Nike and TAG Heuer have been quick to make statements about the Sharapova case but if her corporate deals fall through as a result of her positive drugs test she could lose most of her sources of income. Sharapova earned £16.1m last year in endorsements alone. Her earnings from tournaments amounted to a mere £4.7m in 2014 - and that was including her last slam win at Roland Garros the same year. Sharapova's eight-year deal with Nike is worth £49m while she also has a five-year contract with Evian and a three-year deal with Porsche. The Russian also has her own sweets brand 'Sugarpova'.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has said the country needs three to four years to restore order to its sports anti-doping regime, and that tough measures will be taken over doping.
"We need three or four years, we are only now beginning to restore order," Mutko said.
He said that tough measures will be taken over doping and a number of sports federations will be affected.
Commenting on the case of Maria Sharapova, Mutko would only say: "I think Masha will sort it out herself."
"Maria Sharapova was under con- tract with TAG Heuer until December 31, 2015. We had been in talks to extend our collaboration. In view of the current situation, the Swiss watch brand has suspended negotiations and has decided not to renew the contract," the company said in a statement.
Although Sharapova said she took it for health reasons, and not as a performance enhancer, she became the most high-profile athlete to test positive for the drug used to treat ischemia, a lack of blood flow to parts of the body.
The drug is manufactured in Latvia and prescribed to treat heart disease, although it is not approved by US regulators.
The increase in blood flow it produces could improve endurance and recovery time after exercise and WADA moved it from the "monitored" to the "prohibited" drugs list "because of evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance," the anti-doping body said in a statement. The ban approved last September came into effect on January 1.