31st March 2016

Three more Russians test positive for meldonium

Two Russian cyclists and a national team water polo player have tested positive for low levels of meldonium, but argue that they stopped taking the prohibited substance before the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List came into effect on 1 January 2016. The Russian cycling federation is investigating after Anastasia Chulkova and Pavel Yakushevsky reported positive tests for ‘low levels’ of meldonium. Chulkova took gold in the points race at the 2012 Melbourne Track World Championships, and Yakushevsky took bronze in the team sprint at the 2013 European Track Championships.

‘According to the data we now have, the content of the substance in the doping samples is low, but we can say there are residual traces of meldonium’, read a Russian cycling federation statement. ‘We will hold an internal investigation. According to statements made by athletes, they stopped using drugs containing meldonium immediately after a message about its new status as a banned substance in the autumn of 2015.’

Alexey Bugaychuk, who competed for the Russian water polo team at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, tested positive for meldonium at the Men’s European Water Polo Championships in Belgrade on 18 January, reports Tass. A spokesperson told the news agency that Bugaychuk had stopped taking meldonium in October.

As previously reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, it appears that many Russian athletes were advised that meldonium would clear the body in about two weeks, however it is now understood to be detectable for much longer. This creates an ethical dilemma for anti-doping organisations – can they prosecute athletes for testing positive for a substance if they stopped taking it before it was banned? It is understood that this will form part of the defence of many of the accused athletes.

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