The FINA Doping Panel has banned Russian swimmer Vitaly Melnikov for 8 years after a positive test for Human Growth Hormone earlier this year. This was his second positive test in 2 years.
On March 29th, 2016 FINA conducted an out-of-competition doping control test on Melnikov and came back with the positive test. Melnikov’s first positive test came in competition at the 2013 European Short Course Championships. That time, the substance was EPO, which when taken artificially can increase red blood cell production, which leads to improved oxygen flow to muscles.
Melnikov was at first provisionally suspended for his prior test, and then was given a 2 year suspension, the maximum allowed for a first offense at that time, through December 12th, 2015. Since then, maximum suspensions have doubled for first offenses to 4 years, and this 8 year second-offense punishment is twice that.
The 26-year old Melnikov did not qualify represent Russia at the 2016 Olympic Games, and so was not one of the athletes involved in the IOC’s attempt to bar all Russian athletes with any previous doping sanction (though those athletes were all later cleared to compete). Melnikov has, however, represented his country internationally at previous meets, including the 2013 World University Games and the 2013 European Short Course Championships.
As part of the suspension, Melnikov must forfeit all results, awards, and prize money achieved on or after March 29th, 2016. That includes just one meet – the 2016 Russian Olympic Trials – where he earned a bronze medal in the 50 fly and qualified for the semi-finals of the 100 fly.
This suspension, which runs through April 21st, 2024, is likely to effectively end Melnikov’s career.