The UN has suspended Russian tennis star, Maria Sharapova, as a goodwill ambassador following her failed drug test. Sharapova served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Programme for the last nine years and the move comes after sponsors including Nike, Porsche and TAG Heuer distanced themselves from the five-time Grand Slam champion.
Born in Siberia, Sharapova had been contributing to the UN Development Programme's work around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster recovery. She had visited Belarus in her role as a UN goodwill ambassador. Sharapova also donated $100,000 (£70,688) in support of youth projects across rural areas that continue to suffer in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
"The United Nations Development Programme remains grateful to Maria Sharapova for her support of our work, especially around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster recovery," said a UN spokesman. "However, in light of Ms Sharapova's recent announcement, we last week suspended her role as a Goodwill Ambassador and any planned activities while the investigation continues."
Maria Sharapova revealed that she has failed a drugs test at this year's Australian Open at a news conference held in Los Angeles on 7 March. The 28-year-old grand slam-winning player said she has tested positive for meldonium – a substance that she has used as a form of medication since 2006.
Despite receiving a letter in December 2015 confirming that the substance has been added to the list of banned substances, Sharapova claimed in her statement that she had not read the letter thoroughly. "I received a letter on 22 December from the World Anti Doping Agency for the changes next year and where the tests will be with a link to the changes for 2016 and I did not look at that list," said Sharapova in her news conference.
She was been provisionally suspended as of 12 March.