21st March 2016

Russian meldonium positives continue to mount

The Russian athletics federation (RusAF) confirmed this morning that four of its athletes have tested positive for meldonium at the Russian Winter Championships, which took place in Moscow from 23 to 25 February. RusAF said that it was satisfied with the preparations it had carried out regarding the introduction of the 2016 Prohibited List, on which meldonium was included. ‘The federation has repeatedly warned athletes, coaches and support staff that meldonium (mildronate) is included on the Prohibited List’, it said in a statement. ‘This was reported several times on the official website of the federation since October 2015’.

However, Andrey Minzhulin – who has also tested positive for meldonium –  told Russian website RSport that the Prohibited List was not translated into Russian until October 2015. It was initially thought that meldonium had a half-life of between three to six hours in the body, meaning that Minzhulin was advised that it should be undetectable after two weeks. It is now understood to be detectable for 100 days. He claimed that this has led many athletes who stopped taking the drug before the Prohibited List was introduced to test positive for it in 2016.

If the List was not translated into Russian until October 2015 and an athlete then stopped taking meldonium, is it then fair to sanction them for testing positive in 2016, if they took meldonium when it was not prohibited? Although the World Anti-Doping Code is built on the strict liability principle, it appears that Minzhulin’s comments could form the basis of a legal argument for many athletes who have tested positive in such a manner.

Speed skaters

The International Skating Union (ISU) also confirmed that the B samples of three speed skaters had confirmed their positive tests for meldonium. As our table shows, this includes Pavel Kulizhnikov who took gold at the 2015 and 2016 World Sprint Championships and in three events at the World Single Distance Championships.

The ISU release also confirmed positive tests for Semion Elistratov, who took gold in the 5,000m relay at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as gold in the 1,500m at the Moscow 2015 World Championships. Russian national team member Ekaterina Konstantinova also tested positive, reported the ISU.

Swimmer

The Russian swimming federation also confirmed that it has temporarily suspended Yulia Efimova, after receiving documents from the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA). Efimova is a four-times world champion and has been based in the USA since 2011.

‘In order to obtain information with an explanation for this situation, the President of the [Russian swimming federation], Vladimir Salnikov, will meet soon with leaders of the “Centre of sports preparation for the national teams of Russia” and the Russian Ministry of Sports’, read a statement from the Russian swimming federation. ‘In September 2015, according to the approved individual plans, a number of swimmers were sent for training abroad. Ensuring full preparation of this group of swimmers had been taken, the “Centre of sports preparation for the national teams of Russia” appointed Sergey Ilyin curator of the group’.

Biathlon athlete

The Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) announced on 9 March that Eduard Latypov had tested positive for meldonium. Latypov tested positive during the International Biathlon Union (IBU) cup this year.

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