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Meldonium Contributed to 26.4 Percent Increase in Doping Cases, Report Reveals

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Maria Sharapova of Russia looks back to challenge as call as she plays Nadia Petrova of Russia during their match at the US Open women's singles tennis tournament in New York, September 2, 2012. Photo: REUTERS

A 26.4 percent increase in positive doping cases was recorded for 2016 in comparison with similar data for 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Annual Report has revealed, although this was partly due to the addition of meldonium as a banned substance.

In total, 4,814 adverse analytical findings (AAFs) were recorded for 2016 in comparison with 3,809 for the previous year.

The later figure included 497 failures for meldonium, a substance only prohibited from January 1, 2016.

The total number of anti-doping rule violations (ADRV) which ultimately resulted from the AAF’s was not recorded.

It came despite a fewer number of tests being carried out, 328.086 in comparison with 328,381 the previous year.

A higher proportion of these were blood and athlete biological passport (ABP) tests as opposed to urine samples.

A detailed testing report is due to be published in the fourth quarter of this year.

Swimmer Yulia Efimova and tennis superstar Maria Sharapova were among dozens of top Russian and Eastern European stars to fail for meldonium, a heart medication, which, it is claimed, boosts endurance.

Many, including Sharapova, claimed they were not aware that the product had been banned.

Many of these athletes have now returned to competition after WADA conceded that “more research was required” to ascertain how long the substance remains in the human body.

The 81-page report did not discuss meldonium in any detail even though WADA was heavily criticized for the way it went about banning and then moderating its attitude to the substance.

It also chose not to directly respond to the criticism it received from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other sporting bodies for the way it had responded to the Russian doping scandal.

WADA’s response – which included its commissioning of the McLaren Report published shortly before Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – was justified in the a joint opening message by President Sir Craig Reedie and director general Olivier Niggli.

“The Russian doping scandal was one of the most destabilizing incidents for sports in recent memory,” they wrote.

“It has taxed the resources of many of our stakeholders; in particular, it was extremely demanding for WADA and International Federations (IFs) many of which are still managing the fallout.

“WADA has been shoulder to shoulder with our partners.

“We have been doing our utmost to support them with their results management and to help them determine if there is sufficient evidence to pursue ADRVs for their athletes or support personnel.”

A list of 10 priorities for the future is included in the report.

Key among these is developing a stronger code compliance system, including “graded and proportionate” sanctions for non-compliant organizations.

Improved education and scientific research are also prioritized, as well as generating more income and strengthening laboratories and the APB system.

“Managing the outcomes” of the McLaren Report is also cited as a major aim.

The publication of two IOC-commissioned reports on the Russian doping crisis are due in October.

“For 17 years, WADA has led the charge against doping in sport in an ever changing and complex environment,” Sir Craig and Niggli concluded.

“We believe that we have been successful in our mission.

“We are proud of the work that has been accomplished by the WADA team, with limited resources – always striving to meet and exceed the expectations set by our partners in the clean sport community.

“As you can see, much work has been done and much is left to do to secure athletes’ confidence and trust in the system, which they so richly deserve.

“Our goal is to ensure that the clean athlete prevails.”

The full report can be read here. 

By Nick Butler

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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