Sharapova to be reinstated as UN goodwill ambassador when ban is up
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova will be reinstated as a UN goodwill ambassador when her enforced ban from the sport ends next April.
Sharapova lost her role with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which works to tackle inequality and poverty, after the five-time grand slam champion admitted in March to taking meldonium, added to WADA's list of banned substances from January 1, 2016.
Sharapova lost her role with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which works to tackle inequality and poverty, after the five-time grand slam champion admitted in March the use of Meldonium, drug that has been banned starting January 2016.
An International Tennis Federation tribunal subsequently suspended the 29-year-old for two years, reduced to 15 months after a successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The athlete returned to competition at a Las Vegas charity event on October 28.
“UNDP was glad to learn that Maria Sharapova can return to the sport she loves sooner than expected and we will lift the suspension of her role as our goodwill ambassador once the reduced ban expires in April 2017,” a spokesperson told the Guardian.
“We understand that Ms. Sharapova will be focused on resuming her tennis career and we look forward to discussing her role and engagement with UNDP at an appropriate date.”
The UN's decision is a further boost to Sharapova, following the lifting of sponsorship deal suspensions by the likes of Nike and Evian.
UN goodwill ambassadors are appointed for their integrity, personality and dignity, and is a further step on the road to regaining respect for Sharapova.
Although the UNDP distanced itself from the Russian when she was banned, it always seemed likely it would look to re-establish a relationship once the outcome of her case was known.
With CAS ruling that her actions were “not about an athlete who cheated,” the UNDP has now welcomed her back into the fold.
Sharapova's charity work on behalf of survivors of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was one of the main reasons she was initially chosen by the UNDP.
Her parents fled the region when her mother fell pregnant with Sharapova a few months after the accident.
She donated $100,000 soon after her appointment as an ambassador to help people affected by the worst nuclear disaster in history, and has set up a charity to help recovery efforts.
With Sharapova's ban backdated to when she tested positive for meldonium during the Australian Open, she will be free to return to action on April 26, 2017.
Having not played for 10 months she no longer holds a world ranking, but with the French Open scheduled to start four weeks after her comeback, Sharapova will hope to quickly climb the standings.
The former world No.1 claimed the title at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.