FINA has dropped doping charges against Russian former World Record holding swimmer Yulia Efimova, according to the head coach of the Russian National Team. That will officially make her a part of the Russian Olympic Team for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
FINA has not responded to a request for comment.
Efimova tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium earlier this year, which was the second time since the last Olympic Games that she had recorded an adverse analytical finding. The latest substance was commonly used by Russian athletes but was added to the World Anti-Doping Code’s list of banned substances as of January 1, 2016. Meldonium was originally developed to help Russian soldiers carrying heavy packs maintain their endurance across elevated terrain, but has since found use as both a performance enhancer for athletes and a heart medicine.
According to the TASS, she’s one of nearly 300 athletes to test positive for the substance since it was banned. FINA initially put her under a temporary suspension, but then lifted that temporary suspension in May while awaiting the full run of proceedings to go through.
“The FINA decision was expected, not a surprise. We waited, and it happened,” said the head coach of the Russian National Team Sergei Kolmogorov. “Yulia will join the team on August 1st in Brazil, and she is now training according to an individual plan.
While awaiting a decision, Russia altered its Olympic qualifying criteria to leave room for Efimova to be a member of the team even though she was still suspended during the Russian Olympic Trials. While she was not named to the country’s initial Olympic roster, she was later added to the approved roster pending the outcome of the doping proceedings, which Russia has been forced to do in many sports.
While Efimova’s case lingered unusually long between the FINA Doping Panel and a probable appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, WADA extended a previous “Meldonium grace period” through September. This grace period, originally extended only to athletes who tested positive very early in the year (prior to March 1st), was put in place because there was uncertainty about how long it would take Meldonium to clear an athlete’s system if it was taken late in 2015 before it was banned. While Efimova’s testing results (which showed “clean” urine results sandwiched by “doped”urine tests) were suspicious, the concentrations were all very low, which effectively forced FINA’s hand in excusing her offense.
Included in WADA’s statement, which you can read in its entirety here, the agency states,”Typically, WADA does not commission excretion studies for substances that are added to the List as the Agency is generally able to rely on this information being provided by the manufacturer or regulatory authorities.”
“In the case of meldonium, however, no information relating to urinary excretion was available and so once it was added to the List, WADA undertook excretion studies.”
WADA’s Director General Olivier Niggli stated that, “The addition of meldonium to the Prohibited List created an unprecedented situation and therefore, during a transitional period, it warranted additional guidance for those in the anti-doping community tasked with managing cases.”
While Efimova lost several results because of her initial doping ban in 2013 for a different substance, she still enters the 2016 Olympic Games as a 4-time World Champion, including as the defending World Champion in the 100 breaststroke. She’s also the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 breaststroke, the former World Record holder in all three breaststroke distances in long course, and the current-season World #2-ranked 100 and 200 meter breaststroker.
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