Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has taken another pot-shot at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for its decision to ban meldonium, the drug for which Russians have now failed tests in at least nine different sports.
The most recent case involves four-time world swimming champion Yuliya Efimova, who it was reported yesterday had failed for the substance little more than a year after she returned from another doping ban for banned prescription steroid DHEA in 2013.
She has now been suspended while an investigation continues.
Her private doctor having been blamed for not getting the substance out of her system quick enough.
Nadezhda Sergeeva, a bobsledder who finished 16th in the two-woman event at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, has also admitted today she has tested positive for the drug.
She claimed she last took the substance in “late 2015” and used it “strictly in connection with cardiological problems which had become apparent.”
Mutko has claimed that many of the athletes who have failed tests had stopped taking the substance before it was banned on January 1, blaming WADA for supposedly not conducting tests as to how long it stays in the human body,
“Today, we have received WADA explanations in which it said they had held no laboratory tests to establish for how long meldonium can be present in a human organism,” he told Russian news agency TASS.
“They, just like we did, used recommendations for the formula’s use which say that it takes from six to eight hours for the drug to leave the human body.”
Rugby player Alena Mikhaltsova, who tested positive for meldonium last week alongside her husband, Alexey, claimed to have stopped taking the substance once she was notified it was going to be banned last September.
Others, including tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, the most high-profile failure so far, have not used this excuse and have admitted to taking the drug after it was outlawed.
It follows a meeting between Mutko and Vladimir Putin where the Russian President was updated about work being undertaken to improve the country’s anti-doping programme as they bid to have their suspension from the International Association of Athletics Federations lifted in time for Rio 2016.
“We are conducting the relevant work jointly with WADA,” Mutko said.
“We have carried out a complete reassessment of RUSADA staff, created for them more advanced possibilities for independence.”
The outbreak of meldonium cases is threatening to overshadow this work, however.
Developed in Lativa, meldonium was moved from the monitored to the prohibited list by WADA due to “evidence of its use by athletes with the intention of enhancing performance”.
Although also prescribed as a prescription drug, meldonium was reportedly used by Soviet troops fighting in the Afghanistan War to boost their endurance.
It has been claimed that sales of meldonium have soared in the pharmacy at Russia’s lower House of Parliament, where the drug is now out of stock.
“We have had one pack on sale for years and nobody was asking for it,” an unnamed employee of the pharmacy told the RBC news service.
“And now the demand is so high, even though the drug is sold only by prescription.
“Today we sold two packs already and we do not have any more.”
According to its Latvian manufacturers, as well as boosting muscle tone and dexterity, meldonium also helps improve memory and thought.
Russia is not the only country to have had problems, with other high-profile cases involving Ethiopia’s Tokyo Marathon winner Endeshaw Negesse, Sweden’s Ethiopian-born former world 1500 metres champion Abeba Aregawi and Ukrainian runner Nataliya Lupu, the European Indoor 800m champion in 2013.
Wrestlers, biathletes, volleyball players, speed skaters and ice skaters have also failed tests, it has been reported.
insidethegames has contacted WADA for a reaction to Mutko’s latest comments.
- By Nick Butler
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz