Tennis racquet maker Head have come under fire on Twitter after posting a congratulatory message to Maria Sharapova following the news that her two-year doping ban had been reduced to 15 months this morning.

Sharapova will be eligible to return to competitive tennis in April after her ban was reduced by a sports court that found the Russian star did not bear "significant fault" for her positive drug test.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport cut nine months off the suspension imposed on Sharapova, who tested positive for the banned heart medication meldonium at the Australian Open in January.

Head, who have backed Sharapova since the initial failed test, posted a message on Twitter to congratulate her on having her ban reduced.

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"HEAD wish to congratulate Maria Sharapova on the CAS ruling, and we welcome her return to competitive tennis in April 2017," the message wrote.

"We are proud to have stood by Maria for the right reasons throughout these difficult times."

Nike, the world's largest sportswear maker, Swiss watchmaker TAG Heuer and German luxury car maker Porsche all suspended their ties with Sharapova after she tested positive at this year's Australian Open.


In an accompanying statement, Head chief executive Johan Eliasch appeared to recognise the CAS ruling as a sign of victory, saying: "Head would firstly like to congratulate Maria on justice being served.

"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."

Many Twitter users weren't in the mood to jump on the #WeStoodWithMaria hashtag, questioning Head's stance.






Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player, appealed to CAS in June seeking to overturn or reduce the two-year penalty imposed by the International Tennis Federation.

In a 28-page ruling , the CAS panel found that Sharapova bore "some degree of fault" but "less than significant fault" in the case that has sidelined one of the world's most prominent and wealthy female athletes.

"The panel has determined, under the totality of the circumstances, that a sanction of 15 months is appropriate here given her degree of fault," the three-man arbitration body ruled.

While Sharapova did commit a doping violation, "under no circumstances ... can the player be considered to be an 'intentional doper,'" the panel said.

Sharapova's ban, which took effect on Jan. 26, was originally due to run until Jan. 25, 2018. Now she can return on April 26, 2017, a month ahead of the French Open, a Grand Slam tournament she has won twice.