Just to be clear before you start reading the main article Biathlon23 writes clean! Unless WADA have added alcohol and chocolate to the banned list! 😉
Meldonium, not to be confused with a melodium which is a musical instrument, is the latest drug to be banned by WADA. The World Anti-Doping Agency decided to ban it in September 2015 and it was officially added to the list on the 1st of January 2016. After which date athletes from many sports tested positive for its use. Biathlon was affected significantly with 4 biathletes having positive tests for the drug.
What exactly is Meldonium and why was it only banned this year? The drug which is also known as mildronate is principally used to treat ischaemia. Ischaemia, for those of you who aren’t doctors, is a lack of blood flow to parts of the body including the heart. Therefore Meldonium is often taken to treat angina or heart failure. As we have seen with the most famous case involving Maria Sharapova people have been taking it for a long time, in her case over 10 years. WADA had been monitoring the drug for a year before taking the decision to ban it.
The drug itself was made in Latvia and is available across the Baltic counties and Russia. It was originally intended for animals! It is not approved for use in Europe or America. You may be surprised at the amount of athletes across so many sports who are able to compete at such a high level with angina and heart failure but it turns out that’s probably not what they are taking it for! The fact that it increases blood flow around the body means that if an athlete is taking it they can improve their exercise capacity. That means they can train more and recover quicker. A distinct advantage over other athletes.
The reason that WADA decided to look into the use of Meldonium was because they were finding it so frequently in athletes samples and so began to monitor it. In biathlon the first to be found with a positive sample was Artem Tyshchenko from the Ukraine. He was followed by fellow Ukrainian Olga Abramova, then Russia’s Eduard Laytpov and finally by Romania’s Eva Tofalvi.
You would imagine that is the end of the story. They got caught, they get banned and we move on. Not so in this case as we have had athletes claiming that they stopped taking the drug before the 1st of January therefore breaking no rules. It all comes down to how long the drug remains in your system after you have stopped taking it.
WADA have stated that “cases where the concentration is below 1 µg/ml and the test was taken before the 1st of March 2016 are compatible with an intake prior to January 2016.” This has led to the lifting of the provisional suspension of both Tyshchenko and Latypov as this applied to both of their positive tests. However they are still required to explain why the substance was found in their samples.
In general the IBU seem to be doing a decent job in testing and finding possible cheats. Other winter sports have hardly found any cases of Meldonium use. Cross-country, alpine, snowboarding and all the others haven’t found many, if any, positive cases of Meldonium use. This suggests that either these other winter sportspeople are clean or much more likely they just aren’t getting caught.
Unfortunately sport is always going to be plagued by cheats. As long as they are caught and punished that helps me to believe that the vast majority of biathletes compete clean. It is getting harder and harder for us poor spectators to trust sportspeople nowadays though. With more money and rewards everything becomes about winning so maybe they would do well to remember that sport is not only about success. It’s about fun, being healthly, self improvement, setting a good example for others, learning skills and did I mention fun! Not everyone can win, even cheats will lose to other cheats. So maybe just try and enjoy your sport because it’s really not worth risking your health and career taking some random drug that might help you win but probably won’t! Even if it does help you deep down you know your success is undeserved. So please stop the MADNESS – Meldonium or any other performance enhancing drug!!!
Biathlon23 would like to point out that although not currently on the WADA banned list, the use of a melodium is not recommended as a way to make you into a better biathlete! 😉
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