Maria Sharapova: Sponsors congratulate convicted Russian with controversial tweets after ban is reduced to 15 months

Sponsors HEAD declared that they were 'very proud to have stood by Maria' - even though she remains convicted of drug abuse

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Maria Sharapova’s sponsors have congratulated the tennis player after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduced the tennis player’s two-year ban for taking meldonium to 15 months.

The former World no.1 tested positive for the drug last June and was initially expected to be banned from the game until January 2018. 

Following a lengthy appeal, however, the decision was overturned on Tuesday and the Russian will now return to the sport in April 2017.

Using the hash-tag ‘#WeStoodWithMaria’, HEAD tweeted out their congratulations and issued a public statement in which they declared that they were “very proud to have stood by Maria.”

“As a result of the CAS ruling on Maria Sharapova, HEAD would like to firstly congratulate Maria on justice being served,” Johan Eliasch said, chairman and CEO of HEAD.

“We eagerly await her return to competitive tennis in April 2017 and we are very proud to have stood by Maria for the right reasons throughout these difficult and testing times for both Maria and those who have supported her all over the world.

“However, it must not detract from the fact that she had been taking a legitimately prescribed medication that the anti-doping agencies were aware of for 10 years. It is wholly unfair that Maria, an upstanding individual of the highest moral and ethical conduct, was banned from playing competitive tennis while not actively engaging in any behaviours that could be considered cheating.”

The company has been widely attacked on social media for its declaration of support, however. 

HEAD’s initial tweet was met by a backlash of angry twitter users criticising the company for their endorsement, with some suggesting that the brand has inadvertently promoted drug abuse through its remarks.

Despite the reduction in Sharapova’s ban, the tennis player’s name has not been cleared and the Russian still remains guilty of taking meldonium.