Head to offer Maria Sharapova new contract

Head said it is “proud” to stand by Maria Sharapova and plans to extend the five-time grand-slam champion’s contract as the racquet manufacturer is content her failed drugs test was a result of an “honest mistake”.

Former world number one Sharapova on Monday stunned the sporting world by revealing she tested positive for the banned substance??meldonium during the Australian Open in January.

The 28-year-old Russian said she had been taking meldonium for a decade due to??health reasons??and was not aware that it had been added to the??World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list of prohibited substances as of January 1 this year.

Sponsors Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche wasted no time in stating they would not be backing??Sharapova following her revelations this week as she waits to discover??the length of her suspension.

But Head on Thursday revealed it will stand by the world number seven,??as the company is satisfied she did not take the banned substance to enhance her performance.

Head said in a lengthy statement: “It is common ground within the scientific community that in order for meldonium to have any relevant performance enhancing effect it has to be taken in daily dosages in excess of 1,000 to 2,000mg.

“According to the attorney for Maria, her dosage was significantly less than that.??We further believe that she has and still is dealing with the medical conditions she described.

“Prior to 2016, we believe that Maria has never throughout her career been taking any WADA banned substances or any other illegal substances.

“Maria announced on March 7th, 2016 that she had tested positive for the use of meldonium, but that this was a mistake by her as she had not realised that mildronate or meldonium had been added to the WADA list of banned substances.

“On this basis we conclude that although it is beyond doubt that she tested positive for the use of a WADA banned substance, the circumstantial evidence is equally beyond doubt that the continued use of meldonium after Jan 1st, 2016 in the dosages she had been recommended, which were significantly short of performance enhancing levels, was a manifest error by Maria.

“In the absence of any evidence of any intent by Maria of enhancing her performance or trying to gain an unfair advantage through the use of mildronate, we further conclude this falls into the category of ‘honest’ mistakes.

“We also know that for more than a decade, Maria Sharapova has been a role model and woman of integrity who has inspired millions of fans around the world to play and watch tennis. The honesty and courage she 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.

“Maria may have made a mistake, but she has earned the benefit of the doubt and we are extending it to her. We look forward to many more years of working with Maria.”

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