29 September 2022

The SII Anti-Doping Monitor – week ending 23 September 2022

Nine athletes from eight countries, competing in five sports, were involved in anti-doping proceedings that came to light during the week to 23 September. Cases involved footballers from Senegal and Honduras and a 14 year old tennis player, underlining that Kamila Valieva is not the only young Russian involved in anti-doping proceedings.

‘The player was 14 years old and playing in only their second senior ITF tournament in January 2022 when they were selected for a random anti-doping test’, read a Statement issued by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA). ‘The sample was sent to a WADA-accredited laboratory, which detected the presence of Meldonium in their A sample, later confirmed in the B sample. 

‘Under the TADP, the player is categorised as a Protected Person, due to their age, and they were able to establish ‘No Significant Fault or Negligence’. The appropriate period of ineligibility was, therefore, between two years and no period of ineligibility, depending on the player’s degree of fault. Due to the player’s age, level and lack of access to Anti-Doping education, the sanction was set at nine months.’

The ‘No Significant Fault or Negligence’ provisional from the World Anti-Doping Code…

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, an athlete can benefit from a reduced sanction if they can establish that they are not at significant fault or negligence for an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV). If the athlete is considered a ‘protected person’ under the Code, they don’t need to establish how the prohibited substance entered their physiology in order to benefit from ‘no significant fault or negligence’. 

Meldonium is an anti-ischemic drug that helps facilitate blood and oxygen flow. Because of that, it has cardio-protective qualities, but is also useful in endurance sport. Meldonium is available without a prescription in Russia and other Eastern European countries. It was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2016 Prohibited List in controversial circumstances. WADA’s own research indicated that there would be a problem before the 2016 List came into effect, as 3,625 athletes tested positive for meldonium in 2015.  

There is also evidence that many athletes were advised to take the drug precisely for its supposed performance enhancing qualities. “In October, I began intense training and to maintain the heart, I began to take Mildronate [another name for meldonium]”, said Andrey Minzhulin, who was cleared of having committed an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) on 19 April 2016, in an interview with RSport. “It was, of course, not plucked out of the air; the drug has been known for a long time and has repeatedly been prescribed and recommended by sports doctors”.

Because the athlete is a ‘protected person’, the ITIA didn’t publish further details and we don’t know the circumstances of the case. It is possible that the 14 year old was advised to take meldonium for legitimate medical reasons. 

But as with the Kamila Valieva case, questions remain about why a young athlete was using a drug designed for people with heart issues. The 15 year old figure skater returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF – or ‘positive test’) for trimetazidine, another substance used to combat heart issues that has been given to athletes by Russia’s Federal and Medical Biology Agency (FMBA) in the past. The results of a Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) hearing into her case are expected soon.

In other news, top New Zealand cyclist Olivia Ray was sanctioned with a 30 month ban after admitting use of three prohibited substances, due to substantial assistance provided to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). A lifetime ban had already been issued to Ray’s then boyfriend, Jackson ‘Huntley’ Nash, following an investigation launched after an alleged domestic abuse case.

As reported by CyclingTips in March, it appears that Nash attempted to secure a protective order against former girlfriend Madeline Pearce, following her attempts to help Ray escape an allegedly abusive relationship with Nash. The Nash vs. Pearce case reportedly involved photographs taken by Pearce suggesting prohibited substance use. It is understood that USADA began investigating Nash, a former motorcycle racer, based on his case against Pearce. 

‘When confronted with the evidence, Ray fully cooperated, despite pressure for her not to do so, and admitted she was provided prohibited substances by another athlete, Jackson “Huntley” Nash’, reads USADA’s Statement. ‘Under Article 10.8.1 of the Code, an athlete who faces an anti-doping rule violation that carries a period of ineligibility of four or more years may receive a one-year sanction reduction if the athlete admits the violation and accepts the asserted sanction within 20 days of notification of the alleged anti-doping rule violation charge. Per the rule, Ray qualified for a one-year reduction to the otherwise applicable four-year period of ineligibility. USADA also granted Ray an additional six-month reduction of her sanction for providing substantial assistance with respect to the case against Nash.’

Please continue to send any cases we may have missed or suggestions through to our editor by clicking here. Also, if you’re an athlete, national anti-doping organisation (NADO) or other Results Management Authority and you’d like us to cover a case that you’re involved with, please get in touch! Also – a reminder. The SII Anti-Doping Monitor only features confirmed AAFs (‘positive tests’) or confirmed anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs).

Decision links

Keita Balde (Spartak Moscow Statement);

Lilian Kasait Rengeruk (AIU List of First Instance Decisions, full Decision);

Wisdom Niayitey Quaye July (FIFA Statement);

Danylo Kalenichenko (ITF Statement);

Oliva Ray (USADA Statement);

Elizeu Zaleski (UFC/USADA Statement);

Unnamed 14yr old Russian tennis player (ITIA Statement);

Anastasia Mazzolin (NADO Italia Statement);

Vincenzo Russo (NADO Italia Statement)

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