Efimova Maintains Innocence, Hopes To Compete In Rio

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.


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Joel Lin

Considering this was a legal drug until Jan 1st, how long does the drug stay in a person’s blood system? Is it at all possible someone who took it December 31st could test positive a week or a month later, and hence be more the subject of an incorrect punishment?

I rather doubt it since most heart medications pass the system in 24-72 hours, but thought I’d take a caution to suggest if possible. On another note, there sure seems to be a lot of Russian world class athletes who are suffering from heart problems. It’s almost like they found all the great athletes in their country using heart ailments as a selection criteria. Almost.


Someone else in the comments section of one of the other articles about this said it had a half life of 6 hours. I’m not sure if it’s true though


According to the press release from the drug manufacturer, although the half-life of the drug is short, it can take months to completely clear the drug (terminal elimination). http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sport-doping-meldonium-idUSKCN0WN1FS

She might actually be innocent — technically speaking — of doping. WADA may have a tough time with this one. They’ve been wrong before

Why she and the other athletes were taking the drug to being with is another story. It’s performance enhancing effects are supposedly not much greater than caffeine. They may have been using it as a cardioprotective medication during extreme exercise, perhaps to enhance recovery. Athletes take all kinds of crap they think will give them an edge without any evidence that they do.

Joel Lin

Thank you SwimDoc. This is exactly what I feared to get at. The tennis player is blown up because in public she stated she took this after Jan 1st not knowing until sometime later it was added to the banned list. Yulia Efimova is following a different, and I am loathe to write narrative: she took it up the the January 1st witching hour and stopped after Jan 1st. Given what you wrote and referenced, if accurate, is the magic out. For some money there will be a lawyer, for some more money there will be a doctor as a paid expert witness and for some more money there will be a lab testing expert witness. They will all say… Read more »


She almost – though not technically – contradicts herself. She makes it clear that she stopped taking it before January 1. She then says she was never notified that it was on the banned list beginning January 1. Proof of nothing on its own, but fishy nonetheless.

These meldonium cases garner zero sympathy with me. Though technically not on the banned list before Jan 1, the drug was used solely as a performance enhancer. I sincerely doubt all these athletes have been treating themselves for heart-attack conditions. Then again, maybe all the juice in them has been affecting their hearts.

Joel Lin

I agree with your belief that there was widespread use of this drug for sports enhancement reasons rather than legitimate medical reasons. I too doubt there is a high volume of Russian world class athletes with legitimate heart ailments. I too have no sympathy for the busted users. That written, there definitely appears to be a learning curve for the users who test positive. Sharapova blew herself up by admitting she took it after Jan 1st. Since ignorance of the new list on Jan 1st is not a valid defense, she is screwed. If she had said nothing or lied earlier, she’d likely have beaten this. Not likely at all she would keep all her endorsements, but she’d beat it… Read more »


I agree, Joel. In my opinion, the drug cheaters who have the money to outsmart the sports federations and WADA are the primary problem, unless it was state-sponsored cheating, which it very well could have been. I doubt any swimmers, save Phelps, would have that kind of money (I’m not saying he cheats) to hire the talent to get it done. Sharapova does have that kind of money. Efimova won a bronze Olympic medal and maybe $50k-100k in endorsements (I’m guessing), which 99% of swimmers would love to have. But Sharapova’s cheat was a lot more lucrative, and I bet others knowing of her incredible success and intake of meldonium (I’m sure it was no secret among the elite Eastern… Read more »


So how many russians have tested positive for meldonium?

Tom from Chicago

Define innocent Ms Efimova. While the drug she took was technically legal because WADA was slow to add it, it should only be taken by people with serious heart conditions.

Its a PED whether it was legal or not, so forgive me if I don’t think you are innocent.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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