Shamed Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova has received another blow following the recent doping scandal, with the United Nations suspending her status as a goodwill ambassador.
The 28-year-old was catapulted into the global limelight earlier this month after admitting she failed a drugs test at the Australian Open.
Sharapova tested positive for recently outlawed substance meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substances list on January 1st.
Ban on #Meldonium may increase deaths among athletes – inventor of drug used by #Sharapova https://t.co/JF0HIdvbZ6 pic.twitter.com/QmGJBAGrUm
— RT Sport (@rtsportnews) March 9, 2016
The Russian claims that she has been described the drug by her doctor in recent years as an answer to health issues, but WADA state meldonium enhances athletic performance.
The United Nations Development Programme has released a statement clarifying that Sharapova will not represent the organization until the doping investigation concludes.
“The UNDP remains grateful to Maria Sharapova for her support of our work, especially around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster recovery,” a spokesperson said.
“However, in light of Ms Sharapovaís recent announcement, we last week suspended her role as a goodwill ambassador and any planned activities while the investigation continues.”
UN suspends Maria #Sharapova as goodwill ambassador after failing Australian Open drug test https://t.co/CbIuNmuAGY pic.twitter.com/Z4mCbvn0bM
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 15, 2016
Sharapova became a UN goodwill ambassador in February 2007, signing a symbolic $1 salary, and has been a prominent figure for the body over nine years.
Much of her work for the United Nations has been based around assisting the survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the Russian has donated $100,000 in the past to youngsters impacted by the nuclear accident.
Sharapova has family roots in the region, with her parents from the Belarusian city of Gomel.
The shun from the UN follows on from a number of commercial deals with the tennis star being cancelled by leading global companies such as Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer.
#Nike suspends #Sharapova for failed drug test, despite past backing for offenders https://t.co/zWxTrqFFw1 pic.twitter.com/O64xQeM2Uz
— RT Sport (@rtsportnews) March 8, 2016
The news will be another blow to Sharapova personally and sully her reputation further given the criteria needed to become a UN goodwill ambassador.
The organization states that ambassadors are selected based on their integrity, personality and conduct.
Sharapova could be banned for up to four years for the use of meldonium, with her participation in this summer’s Olympic Games looking increasingly bleak.
The investigation over her use of the drug is likely to be based around her motives for taking it and the information and guidance provided to her by advisors and doctors.
Support from the tennis community has been mixed, with Serena Williams offering words of encouragement while the likes of Murray and Nadal have spoken about the need for a ban.
When asked whether he personally read all communications on anti-doping, Nadal had replied: “To be honest I don’t read it. I have my doctor that I have confidence in. My doctor is the doctor of the Spanish tennis federation for a lot of years. He is the doctor of all the Spanish tennis players so I have full confidence in him. And I never take anything that he doesn’t know.
“I am 100% confident with my team and at the same time, I know all the things that I am taking so it is difficult to imagine that something like this can happen. But it is obvious that mistakes can happen – everyone can make mistakes.”
Nadal’s comments about not knowing what’s on the banned list himself are an important reminder that elite sports stars are as much a product of their own talent as they are of the teams that support them, and Sharapova’s defence hinges on this fact that she herself did not know that meldonium was banned and that she trusted her doctors.
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