Maria Sharapova to be reinstated as UN ambassador

Maria Sharapova during the World TeamTennis Smash Hits charity tennis event benefiting the Elton John Aids Foundation at Caesars Palace (10 October 2016) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The tennis star said she did not know the drug she took was banned

Tennis star Maria Sharapova will be reinstated as a UN goodwill ambassador when her suspension for using a prohibited drug expires next April, a UN statement says.

It says that the UN is looking forward to working with her to discuss her role "at an appropriate date".

The player admitted in March that she had taken the substance meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

She was subsequently banned for two years by an investigating tribunal.

But last month her suspension was reduced to 15 months after she filed an appeal.

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The UN Development Programme (UNDP) appointed the tennis star as a goodwill ambassador in February 2007, but suspended her in March after her doping admission.

"The UNDP is 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," the UN statement says.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Maria Sharapova played a prominent role for the UN before she made her doping announcement
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sharapova is one of the world's highest paid athletes

"We understand that Ms Sharapova will be focused on resuming her tennis career and we look forward to discussing her role and engagement with the UNDP at an appropriate date."

Sharapova said she had been taking meldonium since 2006 for health issues but said she did not realise it had been added to the banned list on 1 January 2016 as she knew it by another name - mildronate.

After her admission, Sharapova's sponsors were divided in their response. Sports firm Nike, racket manufacturer Head and bottled water company Evian all said they would stand by her.

But Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer cut ties with her in March while Porsche also expressed concern about continuing its links.

In June, Forbes said Sharapova was the world's second highest-paid female athlete, behind her rival Serena Williams.

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