Demonising Justin Gatlin
13th September 2015
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) has decided not to provisionally suspend three weightlifters after they tested positive for meldonium, however it has yet to clear the athletes of committing an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). The IWF announced that Armenian Hripsime Khurshudyan, who took a bronze medal in the +75kg category at the London 2012 Olympics, had tested positive; as had Russian 2013 European Junior Champion Lyaysan Makhiyanova and Pole Krzysztof Szramiak, who competed in the 77kg category at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
On 11 April 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published guidance which said that anti-doping organisations (ADOs) would have discretion on whether to lift provisional suspensions for positive tests for low levels of meldonium, if the test was conducted before 1 March 2016. The IWF’s decision is believed to be the first time since the guidance was issued that this discretion has been used by an ADO.
Both tennis racquet manufacturer Head and Grindeks, the company which manufactures mildronate (the main brand name for meldonium) have asked WADA to provide scientific evidence as to why meldonium features on the 2016 Prohibited List, which came into force on 1 January. ‘Mildronate is not doping, which enhances athletic performance’, argued Juris Bundulis, Grindeks Chairman. ‘It has no actual or potential threat to the health of athletes’.
However, performance-enhancing effects are now being advertised by a number of online companies selling meldonium. ‘It is also known as a metabolic modulator taken by athletes to increase endurance, improve rehabilitation and prevent damage to the heart and muscles during and after exercise’, reads this site, which is offering to ship the drug to the US, despite the fact that it has not been approved for use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ‘Meldonium works by increasing oxygen movement to muscles tissues’.
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