Tennis  

Racquet manufacturer Head backs Sharapova

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2016. The former world number one announced she failed a doping test at the Australian Open, saying a change in the World-Anti-Doping Agency banned list led to the violation. Sharapova said she tested positive for Meldonium, a substance she had been taking since 2006 but one that was added to the banned list this year. / AFP / ROBYN BECK

Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles, California, March 7, 2016.<br />The former world number one announced she failed a doping test at the Australian Open, saying a change in the World-Anti-Doping Agency banned list led to the violation.<br />Sharapova said she tested positive for Meldonium, a substance she had been taking since 2006 but one that was added to the banned list this year. / AFP / ROBYN BECK

Maria Sharapova’s racquet sponsor Head threw its support behind the Russian tennis star on Thursday, despite the five-time Grand Slam winner testing positive for the banned drug Meldonium.

Sharapova, 28, has lost the backing of Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer, with US sportswear giant Nike and German luxury carmaker Porsche suspending ties with the Russian in the wake of her failed dope test at the Australian Open.

However, Head, which has had a relationship with Sharapova since 2011, said it would stand by the former world number one and plans to extend its contract with her.

“Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her,” Head chairman and chief executive John Eliasch said in a statement.

“The honesty and courage 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.”

Sharapova announced Monday that she had tested positive for Meldonium, a drug she said she had been taking since 2006 but was only added to the banned list this year.

The International Tennis Federation has said Sharapova will be provisionally banned from March 12. She faces a four-year ban for the violation but hopes to have it reduced.

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