Athletes found with less than one microgram of heart attack drug Meldonium in their system could face no punishment if their failed test came before 1 March, following a clarification from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The clarification over the banned drug was made this week amid a lack of clear evidence over how long it takes to leave an athlete’s system, and claims from athletes who failed tests they had ceased taking it before the ban.
Meldonium was added to WADA’s banned substance list on 1 January 2016, since which time a number of athletes have been found to have the drug in their samples, including two Russian track cyclists, and Katusha rider, Eduard Vorganov. However, athletes who have failed tests under the new criteria could now face “no fault” or “negligence rulings”, instead of bans.
In clarification WADA President, Sir Craig Reedie, said: “There is no doubt as to the status of meldonium as a prohibited substance”.
“There is equally no doubt that the principle of strict liability under the Code; as well as, the well established process for results management and adjudication prevail.
“Since meldonium was prohibited on 1 January of this year, there have been 172 positive samples for the substance, for athletes across numerous countries and sports,” Reedie said.
“Concurrently, there has been a call by stakeholders for further clarification and guidance. WADA recognizes this need -- that meldonium is a particular substance, which has created an unprecedented situation and therefore warranted additional guidance for the anti-doping community.”
Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, has said that 27 Russian sportspeople have failed tests for meldonium, the banned drug which hit the headlines after tennis player Maria Sharapova revealed she had tested positive. These are reported to include two track cyclists: 2012 points race world champion, Anastasia Chulkova, and Pavel Yakushevsky, who was bronze medallist in the team sprint at the 2013 European Track Championships.
WADA says it is undertaking studies on the drug, and the current guidance will stand until the results are available.
In the meantime, if meldonium is found in concentrations between 1 and 15 micrograms before 1 March, or below one microgram after 1 March, provisional suspension may be lifted, unless it is found the drug was taken after 1 January. If the drug was found during competition, the athlete’s results in that competition would be automatically disqualified.