WADA makes meldonium U-turn, could affect Sharapova ban

Wed Apr 13, 2016 12:22pm EDT
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By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Athletes who tested positive for meldonium before March 1 could have bans overturned less than four months before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after WADA said it was unable to establish how quickly the drug, outlawed since Jan. 1, cleared the human body.

The World Anti-Doping Agency's notice to national anti-doping bodies is expected to have a major impact on many of the 172 athletes who have tested positive for the performance-boosting drug since January.

They include five-times grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova, who was among 40 Russian athletes to test positive for the drug after it was added to WADA's list of banned substances in January.

Sharapova's lawyer John Haggerty said on Wednesday that WADA handled the issue "poorly" and was now trying to make up for it.

WADA said there was a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times.

"As a result it is difficult to know whether an athlete may have taken the substance before or after January 1, when it became illegal," WADA said in a statement sent to anti-doping agencies and sports federations.

"In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete," it said, adding that the presence of less than one microgram of meldonium in the samples was acceptable.

As revealed by Reuters last month, the drug's Latvian manufacturer said traces could remain in the body for several months depending on doses, duration of treatment and sensitivity of testing methods   Continued...

Mar 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Maria Sharapova speaks to the media announcing a failed drug test after the Australian Open during a press conference today at The LA Hotel Downtown. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports -