The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has just announced an extension to its ‘grace period’ whereby athletes testing positive for banned substance meldonium would be found at ‘no fault’ if the test was taken prior to a designated date.
As it stood entering the month of June, WADA stated that in the particular circumstances where the concentration of a tested sample was found to be below 1mcg and the test was taken prior to March 1, 2016, the case may be deemed ‘compatible with intake prior to January 2016’. The case would thereby render no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete.
However, upon receiving additional excretion study results last week, WADA has now provided an updated guidance to organizations managing meldonium cases. According to WADA, the March 1st date is moved now to September 30th. As such, any athlete having tested positive for meldonium in concentrations of less than 1mcg prior to September 30th may indeed escape punitive bans.
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.”
With the expanded timeframe, it is possible athletes currently awaiting federation-dictated punishments may see a ‘no fault’ ruling handed down instead. This may indeed include Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who saw her provisional suspension for meldonium lifted last May. The reigning World Champion still awaits word on whether she will be eligible for the 2016 Olympic Games or not both from the FINA Doping Panel and any subsequent appeals of that FINA Doping Panel decision.