Since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added the drug meldonium to its list of prohibited substances effective January 1st of this year, no less than 123 athletes across all sports worldwide have tested positively for the drug. Of those cases, 23 reportedly have been Russian athletes, including reigning World Champion swimmer Yulia Efimova.
Meldonium is a drug that increases blood flow in patients with ischemia, but it can also increase an athlete’s exercise capacity. It has been monitored by WADA since 2015 and was added to the WADA banned list starting at the beginning of 2016.
As the number of positive test cases have hit the public news, more members of the athletic community began questioning exactly how long the drug stays in one’s system after the last dose, leading WADA to clarify the situation.
In WADA’s latest statement concerning meldonium specifically, the agency concedes that “limited data exists to date” on the urinary excretion of the drug. As such, this fact may indeed excuse athletes of whom a hearing panel may find probable of having ingested meldonium before January 1, 2016, yet had rendered a positive test after that date.
This means that the once black and white, positive/negative drug testing result is now in question specifically for meldonium, as renal elimination of meldonium is expected to “vary significantly between individuals, depending on the dosing and duration of the drug administration protocol”. (InsidetheGames.biz)
WADA states that in the particular circumstances where the concentration found is below 1mcg and the test was taken prior to March 1, 2016, the case may be deemed ‘compatible with intake prior to January 2016’, and would render no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete.
“In the case of meldonium, there is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times,” said the WADA statement.
“For this reason, a hearing panel might justifiably find (unless there is specific evidence to the contrary) that an athlete who has established on the balance of probabilities that he or she ingested meldonium before 1 January 2016 could not reasonably have known or suspected that the meldonium would still be present in his or her body on or after 1 January 2016.”
“In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete. Cases where the concentration is below 1 mcg and the test was taken before 1 March 2016 are compatible with an intake prior to January 2016.”
“If the anti-doping organisation finds that the athlete could not reasonably have known or suspected that the substance would still be present in his/her body on or after 1 January 2016, then a finding of no fault or negligence may be made.”
In the case of Efimova, it is unknown publicly what the concentration was that rendered her positive result, therefore, it is unknown whether she will fall into the ‘no fault’ category. She is currently serving a temporary suspension while her case is being investigated.
WADA also confirmed that athletes with a concentration of between one and 15 mcg before March 1, or those below one mcg after March 1, could have their cases stayed. (InsidetheGames.biz)
Of WADA’s statement, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says, “The Russian Sports Ministry supports and welcomes the decision made by WADA because it has shown a willingness to understand the situation, rather than stick to the rulebook,” Mutko said in a statement on Wednesday.
The full WADA statement on meldonium can be found by clicking here.