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Published: 10:00 | 9/6/16

Sponsors standing by Sharapova


Nike and Head have pledged their support to Maria Sharapova despite the Russian receiving a two-year doping ban.

The International Tennis Federation announced on Wednesday that Sharapova will serve a two-year suspension after testing positive for the prohibited substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

The independent tribunal found that the five-time grand slam winner had taken meldonium for performance-enhancing reasons, although the panel ruled that she did not intentionally breach doping rules as meldonium was only added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list on January 1 this year.

Sharapova will take her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but as things stand the earliest grand slam she will be allowed to enter is the 2018 French Open.

Nike suspended their contract with Sharapova when news of the failed drugs test emerged but the sportswear giant will continue working with the former world number one.

"The ITF tribunal has found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules. Maria has always made her position clear, has apologised for her mistake and is now appealing the length of the ban. Based on the decision of the ITF and their factual findings, we hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her," a statement from Nike read.

Racket provider Head will also continue to support Sharapova.

"Based upon the evidence provided by Miss Sharapova, WADA and by Dr Don Catlin, 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 that clearly highlights how WADA have broken their own rules in determining whether or not meldonium should be banned," the manufacturer's chairman Johan Eliasch said.

"We believe, based on the facts and circumstances provided to us, that it is a flawed decision. Head will continue to support Miss Sharapova."

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki admits Sharapova's ban is a 'sad situation' for tennis.

"It's always a sad situation to be in when someone gets banned or you have heard that they have failed a drugs test," Sharapova told BBC Sport.

"Tennis has a really strong anti-drug policy in place, which I think is great and helps keep the sport clean. But I think it is a sad situation, not only for Maria but for tennis in general."

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