More than 60 athletes, including Olympic medalists and world champions, have tested positive this year for meldonium, the performance-enhancing drug that Maria Sharapova admitted to using, according to antidoping officials.
Meldonium, developed in Latvia for heart patients, aids blood flow and is not approved for sale in the United States. It was placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list this year after being monitored by the agency in 2015.
“Regarding the number of meldonium positives, I can tell you that it was at 60 adverse analytical findings (since January 1st) recorded on Monday and that number is growing,” Ben Nichols, a spokesman for WADA, said Thursday in an email.
Many of the athletes who have tested positive have not been publicly identified because their cases are still being adjudicated. But Sharapova, the 28-year-old tennis star and commercial powerhouse who is the most prominent athlete known to be affected so far, made her case public Monday by announcing that she had failed a test for the drug. She said she had used meldonium, also known as Mildronate, for medical purposes since 2006 on the recommendation of a family doctor. She said she was unaware that it had been placed on the banned list for 2016 and had failed to click on a link to the updated list sent to her by email by antidoping authorities.
She has taken full responsibility and is not contesting the finding.
Other athletes to test positive include: Semion Elistratov of Russia, an Olympic gold medalist in short-track speedskating; Pavel Kulizhnikov of Russia, a world champion speedskater; Davit Modzmanashvili of Georgia, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling; and Abeba Aregawi of Sweden, a world champion runner.
“We are not really at any stage surprised when a substance is put on the list and all of the sudden there are positive cases,” David Howman, WADA’s director general, said Thursday./.../