Sharapova Ban at Odds With Brand

Discussion started by Rebecca Hopkins , on Monday, 20 June 2016 08:38

Maria Sharapova has been handed a two-year ban for using meldonium, a drug which treats heart disease. The star had been using it since 2006 but WADA outlawed its use in sport at the start of the year. By taking it, Sharapova tested positive at January's Australian Open and whilst the infringement was not deemed intentional, culpability through ignorance will see her off the circuit until 2018.

Keeping tabs on what substances are and aren’t legal in sport is often presented as a herculean task and to a degree it is. However there are plenty of resources freely available to anyone competing to make sure they know what they can safely take. Certainly it adds a level of admin to your life but it isn’t really the most arduous task. Commute this into other professions and suddenly it doesn’t seem such a big ask; plenty of (less well paid) jobs demand that practitioners keep abreast of the latest legislation, why then is it such a big ask of athletes to do the same? If a doctor, accountant or lawyer screwed up at work, they too could well find themselves facing sanction – as well as a few choice news reports.

According to Forbes, Sharapova’s career earnings reportedly exceed $20 million, the majority of which are from endorsements. A key part of her wider brand is her ‘Sugapova’ confectionary operation. And here in lies the PR conundrum; Sharapova has marketed herself – or has allowed herself to be marketed – as a canny business women. Someone genuinely this savvy would surely take far more direct interest in her own bottom line? Consequently that she is now contesting her innocence based ignorance doesn’t really ring true – and if it is, how much of a clever head really sits on those tanned shoulders?  As a personal brand, sport or otherwise, you really can’t have it both ways.

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