Meldonium Can Take Months To Leave Body, Says Drugmaker

Latvian manufacturer Grindeks has remarked Meldonium, the drug that has been in spotlight for producing more than 100 positive sports doping tests since it was banned on January 1 this year, can take "many months" to completely leave the body.

Yuliya Yefimova

The manufacturer of Meldonium remarked the drug has a half life of between four and six hours but its terminal elimination from the body could last for many months, depending on factors such as duration of treatment, dosages, and sensitivity of testing methods.

Meldonium, which is marketed as Mildronate, is a common medicine across Eastern Europe. The drug was developed for treating heart conditions like Angina and was used extensively for as many as 30 years for toughening up Soviet troops in action at high altitude.

A large number of athletes took the cardiac drug before the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned it citing that it has the ability to give "unfair" advantages to athletes. The drug came to spotlight after Russia's former world number one tennis player Maria Sharapova announced she had failed a doping test for the drug after a loss to Serena Williams at the Australian Open this year. Sharapova, who has been provisionally suspended, admitted she had been taking the drug legally for ten years purely for health reasons and also said she was not aware it had been banned.

Since the ban came into effect, at least 16 Russian sportsmen and women, including speed skating Olympic gold-medalist Semion Elistratov, have been caught using the substance along with dozens of competitors from other countries. Russia's four-time world champion swimmer Yuliya Yefimova also tested positive for the same drug and remarked in an interview that she had never been informed it was banned. Yefimova remarked the last time she took Meldonium was when it was still legal and she took it for medical reasons and read the instructions carefully. The swimmer also said experts are now looking at how traces of Meldonium could be in my sample months after she stopped taking it. Yefimova said she did not received any warnings from Russian or from foreign organizations, in electronic or in oral form that Meldonium had been included in the WADA banned list from January.

Yefimova’s claims were denied by All-Russian Swimming Federation (ARSF) president Vladimir Salnikov who remarked the Federation has notified in advance all athletes in accordance with the rules and the information has also been published on the official website of the federation.

The World Anti-Doping Agency remarked athletes were made aware beforehand in October that Meldonium would be added to the banned list. On Monday, a WADA spokesman said the date an athlete sample is collected is the date any subsequent anti-doping rule violation is asserted to have taken place. The spokesman added the onus at any hearing that follows is then on the athlete to explain how the substance was in his or her body. The WADA spokesman added it is important to note that every year all stakeholders are advised on any changes to the Prohibited List three months before it enters into force which provides sufficient time to be educated on any changes to the list.

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