Meldonium can take months to leave body, says drug maker
By Kate Kelland and Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - The drug that has produced more than 100 positive sports doping tests since being outlawed on Jan. 1 can take "several months" to completely leave the body, the manufacturer of meldonium told Reuters on Monday.
A number of athletes say they took the cardiac drug before it was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Latvian manufacturer Grindeks said meldonium has a half-life of between four and six hours but "its terminal elimination from the body may last for several months" depending on factors such as dose, duration of treatment, and sensitivity of testing methods.
Meldonium has been in the spotlight since Russia's former world number one tennis player Maria Sharapova stunned the sporting world by announcing this month that she had failed a doping test for the drug after a loss to Serena Williams at this year's Australian Open.
At least 16 Russian sportsmen and women, including speed skating Olympic gold-medallist Semion Elistratov, have been caught using meldonium since the ban came into effect, along with dozens of competitors from other countries.
While the comments by Grindeks would appear to offer one reason why there have been so many positive tests for meldonium, WADA said athletes were made aware that the substance would be added to the banned list last October.
"The date an athlete sample is collected is the date any subsequent anti-doping rule violation is asserted to have taken place," a WADA spokesman said on Monday.
"At any hearing that follows, the onus is then on the athlete to explain how the substance was in his or her body. Continued...