WADA’s Latest Meldonium Statement May Excuse Some Athletes

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.

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5 years ago

This looks terrible.. Ban a substance and begin testing for it without knowing how long it stays in the system? Is this normal for the WADA to go into something like this with limited knowledge?

5 years ago

i swear to god if efimova is allowed to swim in rio >:(

5 years ago

I telegraphed this a few days ago.

5 years ago

Didn’t Efimova have a clear result in February? That surely means that this doesn’t apply to her unless the uncertainty on the measurement could have indicated she was clear when she wasn’t.

Aussie Oy
Reply to  Buster
5 years ago

Efimova was tested in January, and it was negative.

She was tested twice in February, and both results were positive.

Seems pretty iron clad to me.

Let’s see how her lawyers can wiggle her out of this.

Reply to  Aussie Oy
5 years ago

If the two positive tests in February are under 1 mcg it appears she may be in the clear. The January test is irrelevant (and could be argued away as a false negative if required). WADA really screwed up here, but are taking the proper action to mitigate their incompetency.

Joel Lin
5 years ago

“…Understand the situation, rather than stick to the rulebook”

Wow. And it seems to be working. Wow. This was always Efimova’s shot and the Russian Federation and the lawyers are all over it. This drug has a terminus of months in the system despite a half life if less than a day according to a doctor’s prior post here on SwimSwam (and checking the medical research referenced to the point, this is accurate). It appears WADA had no contingencies for positive tests after Dec 31, 2015 for traces of this drug where the athlete pleads they stopped taking it at the deadline. This is the worst of all worlds for this sport but the outcome looks very possible now. Don’t… Read more »

5 years ago

For now, she has a positive test and it is my understanding that with a doping violation she would not be allowed to train under a US Federation coach during a suspension period as per USA Swimming rules. Where is she currently? If we are playing by the rules, we have to play by ALL of them.

Greg Barton
5 years ago

Sad to see that WADA is caving in to political pressure. Attempting to appear strong while at the same time afraid to bust some of the stars.

If they ever want to put an end to doping, there needs to be serious penalties for those who attempt to cheat and with no chance of them getting off on loopholes. There is no medical reason why these 123 athletes should need to take meldonium – it’s clear they were taking it in attempt to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.

By the same token, the drug that Marion Jones took was not banned while she was taking it. Jones, Barry Bonds and others thought they could game the… Read more »

Steve-O Nolan
5 years ago

Yet another demonstration of: WADA is the worst.

Be back next week for installment 2,527.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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