USA (HRNW): Meldonium has been the talk of the drug-testing world since March, when tennis star Maria Sharapova announced she had tested positive for the performance-enhancer at the Australian Open earlier this year. Nominally used to treat heart disease and other chronic conditions, meldonium was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency starting Jan. 1, but since then Sharapova and hundreds of other Russian athletes have tested positive for it.
Now WADA seems to be relaxing its stance on the drug. According to the Associated Press, the agency has told the world’s sporting federations that athletes who have tested positive for meldonium may be able to avoid sanctions if they can prove they took it before it was banned on Jan. 1.
The revision comes amid questions about how long the drug remains in an athlete’s system after taking it. In its notice sent to national anti-doping agencies and international sports federations, the AP reports, WADA says “limited data exists” on how long it takes to clear the system. Meldonium’s Latvian inventor has said that the drug can remain in an athlete’s system for months, but a forensic and analytical scientist told the New York Times recently that traces of the drug should disappear from a user’s body within one to two weeks of the last dosage.
As reported by the Guardian, athletes could be cleared of blame if the amount of meldonium detected was less than one microgram per milliliter. If the blood sample was taken before March 1, they could be cleared if the concentration was between one and 15 micrograms.
“The Russian sports ministry supports and welcomes the decision made by WADA because it has showed a willingness to understand the situation, rather than stick to the rulebook,” Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said, via the Guardian. “WADA has sent recommendations to all the anti-doping organisations, which will allow them to make fair decisions based on the actual guilt of an athlete. In doing so, WADA has demonstrated impartiality and being objective in the fight against doping.