March 15, 2016 11:38 AM EDT

The United Nations Development Program suspended tennis star Maria Sharapova as a goodwill ambassador after the Russian player admitted to failing a drug test at the Australian Open. The five-time major champion said she tested positive for meldonium, a performance-enhancing drug added to the banned substances list this year.

“The UNDP remains grateful to Maria Sharapova for her support of our work, especially around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster recovery,” said a spokesperson, according to the Associated Press. “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.” The organization had been working with Sharapova for nine years.

Sponsors have also dropped Sharapova since she admitted to taking meldonium, including Nike and Porsche.

Sharapova says she has been taking the drug for 10 years as prescribed by a family doctor for a variety of health issues. She says she did not read the updated list of banned drugs before competing this year.

Meldonium is used in Eastern European countries to treat heart problems and help the circulation of oxygen. New research shows it is a popular drug among athletes.


Write to Eliana Dockterman at

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