Tuesday, March 8, 2016 9:58 am
Meldonium, the banned drug that Maria Sharapova claimed her family doctor had prescribed for her since 2006, had also been used by some cheating athletes busted by dope tests.
Over the past month, Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi, and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium.
The drug is used to treat chest pain and heart attacks among other conditions, but some researchers have linked it to increased athletic performance and endurance.
It is listed by WADA, the world anti-doping agency, among its prohibited metabolic modulators, along with insulin, and some researchers say it can also help recovery.
It is not approved in the United States but is available in Russia, Latvia and other countries in that region.
Sharapova, now suspended by the International Tennis Federation, said her family doctor had been giving her mildronate, which is also called meldonium, for 10 years after she frequently became sick, had irregular EKG results, a magnesium deficiency and a family history of diabetes. The disclosure indicates that the drug has a variety of uses.
“It is very important for you to understand that for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine. But on January the first, the rules have changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance,” she said on Monday, while announcing the shocking news she had failed a dope test.
In recent years, Sharapova is the most prominent tennis player to test positive for a banned substance.
Croatia’s Marin Cilic was banned for nine months in 2013 after testing positive for a prohibited stimulant, though the suspension was cut to four months on appeal.
Former world number one Martina Hingis retired after receiving a two-year suspension for a positive cocaine test in 2007, though the Swiss denied taking the drug.