Meldonium scandal stems from US Anti-Doping agency ‘getting tip-off on E. European athletes’

© Ints Kalnins
WADA’s ban on meldonium was enforced as the result of a report by the US Anti-Doping Agency, which in turn had been alerted to the use of the substance among Eastern European athletes by an unknown source, US media have revealed.

The report published in USA Today claims that the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) received a tip “from a confidential source” back in March 2014, saying that sportsmen from Eastern Europe “were using the drug meldonium as a performance enhancer.”

The paper said it consulted “a person with knowledge of the process” but who “was not authorized to discuss the topic publicly.”

The agency added meldonium use to the agenda of its annual symposium in Phoenix in 2014, USA Today reports. Soon the medicine was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) monitoring list.

After the investigation, the results of a study on the “performance enhancement” qualities of the drug were published and meldonium was added to the WADA prohibited substances list on January 1, 2016 – almost two years after the first tip-off.

The news of Maria Sharapova’s failed drug test has drawn the world’s attention to the little-known drug, with fears that a host of other Russian sports stars are set to be banned for its use.

The five-time Grand Slam winner has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) indefinitely, pending investigation, with major sponsors such as Nike and Porsche putting her advertising deals on hold.

Sharapova claimed that she had been prescribed meldonium for health issues going back to 2006. The drug, which has been on the market for around 25 years, helps deal with heart problems and blood flow.

“I was getting sick very often, and I had a deficiency in magnesium and a family history of diabetes, and there were signs of diabetes,” Sharapova said.

Meldonium producers to fight WADA’s decision on drug ban

Latvian company Grindeks, which produces meldonium, is planning to demand that WADA exclude the medication from the prohibited list, Laila Kļaviņa, head of the communications department at Grindeks, told TASS.

“We spoke with WADA officials and gave all the arguments and research findings, calling not to blacklist it. The debate is still open. The company will do everything possible to return the drug to the category of approved substances,” she said.

According to the Latvian scientist Ivars Kalvins, who invented meldonium, athletes opt for the drug “to protect themselves during the training process because they are working very hard and on the border of the physical capacities of the human body.”
The demand for meldonium is high as the Latvian drug is used by “about 2 million people,” the inventor said.

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