Tennis sponsor Head says it will continue its deal with ‘role model’ Maria Sharapova after failed drug test

sharapova head racketgettyMaria Sharapova at the 2015 Australian Open.

The tennis-racket manufacturer Head plans to keep its sponsorship deal with Maria Sharapova despite the revelation that she tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.

The five-time Grand Slam winner said this week that she tested positive for the recently banned drug meldonium at this year’s Australian Open. This led Nike, TAG Heuer, and Porsche to cut ties with the Russian tennis player.

Head, however, praised Sharapova’s “honesty” and “courage” in a statement outlining plans to continue paying Sharapova to use its rackets.

The statement said: “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,” the statement added. “We look forward to working with her and to announcing new sponsorships in the weeks and months ahead.”

Nike and TAG Heuer have suspended their multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals with the former world No. 1. Business Insider reported that the suspended Nike deal was worth an estimated $100 million over eight years.

Sharapova has been provisionally banned as the International Tennis Federation decides her punishment, The Guardian reported.

On Wednesday night Sharapova posted a message of thanks to her fans for their support.

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