For the first time since reportedly having tested positive for meldonium, Russia’s reigning 100 breaststroke World Champion, Yulia Efimova, has spoken out.
The Russian media reported on March 16th that the 23-year-old had failed a doping test and could potentially face a lifetime ban from the sport. Since then, Efimova’s former coach Irina Vyathchanina, as well as her current U.S.-based coach Dave Salo have commented on the situation.
In her own words during a recorded statement on Russian state TV, Efimova insists on her innocence and says she still hopes to swim at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games this summer.
“I categorically reject the accusation of doping,” she said. “At the current time, we are preparing for a hearing into my case. We intend to have the charge completely dismissed and to prove that I didn’t break anti-doping rules, and I continue to train with the hope that I will compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.” (NBC Sports)
Referring to her previous ban back in 2013 for having tested positive for 7-keto-DHEA, Efimova stated “I missed one and a half years due to my own stupidity. Since then I track especially carefully anything that enters my body and I give a guarantee that any medicines that I have taken or am taking are allowed.”
Within the Russian stat TV interview, Efimova states she had taken meldonium for unspecified medical reasons, but stopped before Jan. 1, when the substance officially joined the list of those prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“I took it for medical reasons after carefully studying the direction. Experts are currently trying to find out how meldonium traces could be found in the samples taken months after I completed the course,” she said.
According to TASS News, Efimova also denies having known that the substance was added to WADA’s list of prohibited substances. “I have not received any notifications that meldonium will be included in the list of banned substances from 1 January 2016. Not even one. Neither from Russian nor from international organizations. Neither in the electronic form nor verbally,” Efimova told Rossiya 24 TV channel on Monday.
Andrei Mitkov, Efimova’s agent, refused to provide any more detail about the swimmer’s medical circumstances in televised comments, saying he did not want to give away information before a hearing. (NBC Sports)
Mitkov confirmed Efimova tested positive in two out-of-competition tests last month while training in Los Angeles, California. One was administered by swimming governing body FINA and the other by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Mitkov said.