First meldonium case exposed in Russian athletics
By Jack Stubbs
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A first Russian track-and-field athlete has tested positive for the banned drug meldonium, heaping further pressure on the country's athletics federation as it fights to be readmitted to international competition in time for the Olympic Games.
Thirteen Russian sportsmen and women have now been caught using meldonium since it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Jan. 1, including world tennis star Maria Sharapova and speed skating Olympic gold-medalist Semion Elistratov.
Despite warnings from sports officials that a number of other Russian competitors could have taken the substance, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Reuters last week meldonium had nothing to do with athletics in his country.
But 26-year-old sprinter and 2013 European Championship silver-medalist Nadezhda Kotlyarova has now tested positive for the substance, Russian news agencies reported on Sunday.
"The concentration of the substance which was found is very small - 25 nanograms. I stopped taking this stuff long before it was banned," R-Sport news agency quoted Kotlyarova as saying.
"I consider myself innocent, we are victims of circumstance."
Kotlyarova's positive test will undermine efforts by the Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) to prove it is compliant with anti-doping standards after being suspended from international competition last year following revelations of wide-spread cheating and corruption.