Meldonium is Now a Punishable Banned Substance

In the early days of the ban of meldonium, a supplement/heart medication popular among Russian athletes that led to the second positive test for Yulia Efimova and a first positive test for Grigory Tarasevich, among many others, very few suspensions were given out.

That came as a result of athletes successfully arguing that they weren’t given enough warning that the substance would be outlawed, and claiming (in what seems to be an accepted statement) that at the time, there wasn’t enough viable research on how long the substance would remain in a person’s system after it was outlawed. The ban was announced about 6 weeks prior to it taking effect on January 1, 2016.

Early tests in that period were met with a no-fault finding, and were given little-to-no punishment. The exception is Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, who unlike most that tested positive for it admitted to having taken it after the ban (though she said that she wasn’t aware that it had been outlawed).

While no official announcement was made by WADA, it seems as though Meldonium has officially become a substance that athletes can become banned for. The best indication of this is a 4-year suspension handed to Zambian distance runner Jordan Chipangama earlier this month by the United States Anti-Doping Association, which is more transparent in publishing its testing history and findings than almost any organization on earth.

The result of two samples collected in June and August of 2017, respectively, were the first to receive the maximum 4-year suspension from USADA. The last case adjudicated by the organization for meldonium was Ivan Tutukin, a triathlete who tested positive as late as May 23rd, 2016, and he was given a no-fault violation. At the time, he said that he stopped using the medication in October of 2015, 7 months before his test, after more than a decade of using it.

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I feel bad for all those Russian athletes with heart conditions.


In the beginning of 2016 season there was a hot discussion if the meldonium is the drug that has to be ban. One of very respected member of this forum suggested that since the usage of meldonium was wide spread the significant drop in performance has to be recorded among swimmers who showed high level results in 2015 season. Well, I know only one case and it wasn’t Russian.

Bear Drinks Beer

There are more than one 2015 world champions who showed significant drop in 2016.

Chinese Ning Zetao, men’s 100m free champion in 2015, was out of final in Rio.
German Marco Koch, men’s 200m breast champion in 2015, finished 7th in Rio.
Australian Emily Seebohm, double backstroke gold medalist in 2015, was 7th in 100 back and out of final in 200 back in Rio.
Japanese Kanako Watanabe, women’s 200m breast champion in 2015, was out of final in Rio.

I’m not sure which case you are referring to.


Some people in your list got better form in 2017 and their dropdown can be explained by some other reasons than stopping using previously legal substances. Injuries for instance. I referred to the case of Missy Franklin who had exceptionally successful NCAA finals in March 2015 and showed good form racing in 200 free in Kazan. Her case can be hardly associated with meldonium.
The meldonium stories are very controversial ones in my opinion, but I hope that WADA knows better.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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