FIVE-TIME Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has revealed she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open and has been ditched by her sponsors Nike.
The former world number one, 28, is also being provisionally suspended from March 12 as she tested positive for meldonium which she states is a substance she has been taking since 2006 for health issues.
Nike said it was stopping its relationship with her until the investigation was complete.
“I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it,” said Sharapova, who previously won Wimbledon when she was 17-years-old in 2004.
Sharapova, famous for her ear-splitting grunts on court, claims she has taken meldonium “for the past 10 years” after being given it by “my family doctor” but had known the drug as mildronate.
“A few days ago, after I received a letter from the International Tennis Federation and also found out the drug also has another name of meldonium, which I did not know,” she said.
With career earnings amounting to almost £26 million (€33.5 million) from her tennis career alone, Sharapova has been the highest-earning female athlete in the world for the past 11 years, according to the Forbes list.
The tennis star’s lawyer, John Haggerty, said he was hopeful the player would avoid a long ban.
“We think there is a laundry list of extremely mitigating circumstances that, once taken into consideration, would result in dramatically reducing any sanction that they might want to impose on Maria,” he said.
The sample was provided by Sharapova on January 26, when she went out against the world number one Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in Melbourne.