Maria Sharapova: Racquet firm Head defends deal extension

Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion
Sharapova is a five-time Grand Slam champion

Racquet manufacturer Head has defended plans to extend its contract with Maria Sharapova, despite her positive test for banned drug meldonium.

The five-time Grand Slam champion has already lost the backing of Nike and Tag Heuer, while Porsche has suspended its relationship with her.

Head chairman Johan Eliasch told the BBC that Sharapova, 28, "made an honest mistake, it was not with intent".

Sharapova will be suspended from 12 March and could face a four-year ban.

Talking on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight, Eliasch added: "It cannot be right that people with health issues should have medication alternatives eliminated for no reason.

"There is no clinical testing that supports that meldonium would have any performance-enhancing effects.

"If there should be sanctions my sentence would be that she should teach tennis for three months."

Russia's Sharapova tested positive at the Australian Open in January.

In an earlier statement, Head described Sharapova as "a role model and woman of integrity who has inspired millions of fans around the world to play and watch tennis".

It added: "The honesty and courage she displayed in announcing and acknowledging her mistake was admirable.

"We look forward to working with her and to announcing new sponsorships in the weeks and months ahead."

Another positive meldonium test...

Meanwhile, Russian biathlete Eduard Latypov has been suspended after testing positive, the Russian Biathlon Union has confirmed.

The International Biathlon Union temporarily suspended the 21-year-old after traces of the banned substance were found in a sample taken last month.

"I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it," Sharapova told a news conference in Los Angeles

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