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Widespread use of meldonium among elite athletes, research shows

MildronateThe use of meldonium—the substance taken by tennis star Maria Sharapova—is widespread among elite athletes, reveals research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The findings, which draw on information volunteered by athletes and individual medical teams, and lab data on anti-doping tests from the Baku 2015 European Games, indicate that up to 490 athletes may have been taking meldonium during the competition. Maria Sharapova had admitted earlier this week that she had tested positive for meldonium after the introduction of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ban.

The research, which was carried out on behalf of the European Olympic Committees, contributed to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) taking the decision to ban the use of meldonium in competitive sport as of January 1 this year. The research highlights that at the time of the Baku 2015 European Games at least 13 medalits or competition winners were taking meldonium while 66 athletes had tested positive for this substance. The Journal said meldonium was detected in athletes competing in 15 of the 21 sports.

A substance is considered for inclusion on the Prohibited List of WADA determines that it meets any two of the following three criteria:

  • There is medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the substance or method, alone or in combination or methods, has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance;
  • There is medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the use of substance or method represents actual or potential health risk to the athlete;
  • That the use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport.

Meldonium is used medically in patients for the treatment of myocardial ischaemia with effects reported to include improved systolic function, inhibited hypertrophy and dilatation of the myocardium, improved peripheral blood circulation and increased stress tolerance. Consequently, the use by athletes enhanced personal performance and a shortening of the recovery period after physical activity. Adverse effects reported by the manufacturers include headache, agitation, tachycardia, allergic skin reaction and dyspepsia. Meldonium is reported to be registered for medical use in 7 Eastern European countries which competed at the Baku Games including Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azarbaijan, Belarus, and Moldova. The number of athletes from these countries represented 23 per cent (1306 of 5632) of the entire athlete population at the Games.

The research “”Meldonium use by athletes at the Baku 2015 European Games”” was done by Stuart, Mark Campbell; Schneider, Christian; Steinbach, and Klaus.

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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