Earlier today, at a quickly called press conference, Tennis star and Porsche Brand Ambassador Maria Sharapova, announced to the media that she failed a drug test taken prior to the start of the Australian Open. While the test itself was administered in January, Sharapova wasn't made aware of the results until March 2nd when she received a letter from the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Apparently, for the last 10 years, Sharapova has been taking the drug Mildronate, to address a number of personal health issues. However, on January 1, 2016, the ITF changed the rules and meldonium (another name for the drug Sharapova was taking) was added to the list of banned substances in professional tennis (for it's possible abuse as a performance enhancing drug). Sharapova stressed, "It's very important for you to understand for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA's banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years. But on January 1 the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known."
Sharapova acknowledged during the press conference that she received an email in December from the World Anti-Doping Agency that noted changes to tennis' program for 2016. She said that the email included a link to a list of banned substances, but that she didn't look at it. “I have to take full responsibility for it,” Sharapova said during the news conference. “It’s my body, and I’m responsible for what I put into it.”
For now, the ITF has confirmed the failed drug test and said Sharapova would be provisionally suspended until the case can be finalized. Sharapova says "she really hopes that she will be given another chance to play this game".
How Will This Effect Her Relationship With Porsche?
In a Forbes story on the subject, branding expert David Schwab at marketing firm Octagon says that any Sharapova partners with spring launches will have to reconsider their plans. He added, “The challenge for Sharapova in a Twitter era is all the headlines say she failed a drug test and many will not read the fine print to understand the details. She will have to continue to message that correctly.” Schwab went on to say that he would be surprised if any brand terminated their relationship with Sharapova because the drug was legal for 10 years.
Sharapova signed a 3-year contract as a Porsche Brand Ambassador in April of 2013. It's unclear if she has been resigned as that contract should be coming to a close. We've asked Porsche for a comment, but haven't heard anything back by the time of publication. We'll update you when and if we hear any more.
Update: March 8, 2016. Porsche responded back to our request for more information and provided the following statement: "We are saddened by the recent news announced by Maria Sharapova. Until further details are released and we can analyze the situation, we have chosen to postpone planned activities."