HEAD Join Nike in Support for Banned Sharapova

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Racquet manufacturer HEAD say they will continue to support Maria Sharapova despite her two-year ban from tennis.

The company have joined Sharapova’s fellow sponsor Nike in issuing a strongly-worded statement condemning the International Tennis Federation’s decision over a failed doping test.

Nike had suspended her contract in March but HEAD never wavered in their support, previously citing her as a “role model and woman of integrity” and proceeding to extend her deal earlier this year.

And the manufacturer’s chairman Johan Eliasch said on Thursday: “Based upon the evidence provided by Miss Sharapova, WADA and the chief science officer of the Banned Substances Control Group, it appears that the ITF have made their decision based upon a flawed process undertaken by WADA.

“It clearly highlights how WADA have broken their own rules in determining whether or not meldonium should be banned.

“We believe, based on the facts and circumstances provided to us, that this is a flawed decision. HEAD will continue to support Miss Sharapova.”

Russian Sharapova admitted to making a mistake in continuing to take meldonium after it was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list on January 1, 2016.

Her two-year sanction was confirmed by the ITF on Wednesday, but its statement admitted she had not intentionally violated doping rules.

The 29-year-old will appeal the severity of the punishment at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.