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Business News/ Industry / 10 facts about meldonium, the substance that got Maria Sharapova into trouble

10 facts about meldonium, the substance that got Maria Sharapova into trouble

Maria Sharapova announced that she failed a dope test during this year's Australian Open

Maria Sharapova. Photo: Reuters Premium
Maria Sharapova. Photo: Reuters

Hyderabad: Russian-born tennis star Maria Sharapova on Monday announced that she failed a dope test during this year’s Australian Open.

Sharapova said she received a letter from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) several days ago informing her that she had failed the test for meldonium during the Australian Open in January.

Sharapova said her family doctor had been giving her mildronate, which is also called meldonium, for 10 years as she frequently became sick, had irregular electrocardiogram (ECG) results, a magnesium deficiency and had a family history of diabetes.

After the failed dope test, the 28-year-old Sharapova, the five-time grand slam champion may face a four-year ban. The ban can be reduced under various circumstances, such as for being a first-time offence or if the player shows no significant fault or negligence.

Here are 10 things to know about Meldonium.

1. It is used medically to treat ischemia, or lack of blood flow, a vascular disease that can lead to heart failure.

2. Meldonium was developed at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis to help prevent ischemia. It is currently manufactured and marketed by a pharmaceutical company called Grindeks, which is based in Latvia.

3. The drug is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the US, but is commonly used in Eastern European and ex-Soviet countries as a drug for people with heart conditions; it’s also offered for sale online. There is also evidence that a sizeable minority of athletes were using before it was banned.

4. In October, the US-based Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC), an anti-doping group, said meldonium was found in 182 of 8,300 urine samples from athletes as part of a study part-funded by the PCC.

5. Meldonium improves exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure, but can also increase exercise capacity in healthy athletes increasing oxygen uptake giving them an unfair advantage in athletics.

6. The drug was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances on 1 January, after some researchers linked it to increased athletic performance and endurance.

7. WADA began monitoring meldonium in 2015, adding the drug to its “Monitoring Program" to determine how widespread its use was within sports and what effects it could have on athletic performance.

8. Swimming federations across the world have already started to warn athletes of its coming illegality. RUSADA, Russia’s anti-doping agency, sent out a memo reminding athletes, coaching and support personnel that the substance had been banned.

9. Sharapova became the most popular sportsperson to be tested positive for meldonium, but she is not alone. Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Russian figure skater and Olympic gold medallist Ekaterina Bobrova, Ethiopia-born athletes Endeshaw Negesse and Abeba Aregawi and Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko have all tested positive for meldonium.

10. WADA president Craig Reedie said that athletes testing positive for meldonium usually face one-year suspensions.

Reuters and AP contributed to the story

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Updated: 08 Mar 2016, 07:38 PM IST
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