Meldonium Amnesty? WADA Issues Notice That Many Of The 172 Athletes Who’ve Tested Positive For Meldonium May Get Off; Maria Sharapova May Not Be One Of The Lucky Ones

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By LetsRun.com
April 13, 2016

Today the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced that earlier this week it sent a notice out to its stakeholders which may result in many of the 172 athletes who have so far tested positive for meldonium this year not being punished.

Meldonium wasn’t a banned drug until January 1, 2016. Given the many positive tests for it so far this year, it’s clear the drug was very popular in lots of sports. WADA has said that while an athlete is technically responsible for any banned substance found in their body, WADA realized it’s not fair to punish athletes who had no idea that the meldonium might stay in their system for months. WADA admits that there isn’t a clear scientific consensus as to how long meldonium stays in the system.

As WADA explained:

In the case of meldonium, there is currently a lack of clear scientific information on excretion times. For this reason, a hearing panel might justifiably find (unless there is specific evidence to the contrary) that an athlete who has established on the balance of probabilities that he or she ingested meldonium before 1 January 2016 could not reasonably have known or suspected that the meldonium would still be present in his or her body on or after 1 January 2016. In these circumstances, WADA considers that there may be grounds for no fault or negligence on the part of the athlete.

Aregawi took gold ahead of Jenny Simpson in 2013

2013 world champ Abeba Aregawi’s fate for her meldonium positive may hinge on how much of it was found in her system

Thus, those athletes who tested positive for very low amounts of meldonium are likely to not be punished unless there is proof they took it after January 1, 2016. For those that tested positive for high levels of meldonium (above 15 µg/mL), then they likely will be banned as that’s proof that they recently took the drug. WADA has indicated they could also be banned if they tested positive for a lower amount – between 1 µg/mL and 15 µg/mL – if the doping control was undertaken on or after 1 March 2016 as only trace amounts of the drug should be in your system after two months.

WADA stated that preliminary results from studies have indicated that meldonium stays in your system at the following levels as time progresses:

Preliminary results of the aforementioned studies, this translates to urinary concentrations higher than 10 µg/mL up to 72 h (first elimination phase), followed by a persistent long-term excretion (second elimination phase) yielding concentrations up to approximately 2 µg/mL over the following three weeks. Long term urinary excretion below 1 µg/mL down to several hundred ng/mL can persist for a number of weeks and in the low tens of ng/mL for a few months.

LetsRun.com’s quick take analysis and the full WADA press release and notice appear below.

Quick Thought #1: WADA did what they needed to do (and exactly what we thought would happen)

We’ve been saying for weeks that because there were so many positives tests for meldonium, there was a good chance that many of them were the result of ingestion before the drug was officially banned on January 1, 2016. WADA is admitting as such and doing the right thing and only banning those who they know took it after January 1, 2016.

Quick Thought #2: It will be interesting to see what happens to Maria Sharapova – she still could be on the hook for a sanction

Tennis star Maria Sharapova is the most high-profile athlete to have tested positive for meldonium. What struck us about her press conference was she never denied taking meldonium after January 1, 2016. She simply said she didn’t know the drug had been banned. Sharapova’a racquet manufacturer Head has even said she continued to take the drug.

“Although it is beyond doubt that she [Sharapova] tested positive for the use of a WADA banned substance, the circumstantial evidence is equally beyond doubt that the continued use of meldonium after Jan 1st, 2016 in the dosages she had been recommended, which were significantly short of performance enhancing levels, was a manifest error by Maria,” said HEAD in a statement in March whey they stood behind Sharapova.

Those facts may come back to haunt Sharapova as WADA’s statement today makes it clear they still view use after January 1, 2016 as a doping violation.

Give us your thoughts about the meldonium amnesty on our messageboard: MB: Meldonium Amnesty.


You can read the whole WADA press release from today below. Before the press release, we’ve also embedded the notice that WADA sent out to its stakeholders.

Full Notice

Download (PDF, 50KB)

Full Press Release

  • WADA issued Notice to Stakeholders regarding meldonium
  • The Notice provides clarification regarding its inclusion on the Prohibited List; existing excretion studies and those underway; and, the results management and adjudication process
  • It reinforces the principle of strict liability for athletes under the World Anti-Doping Code; and, the assessment of fault under the Code that is the duty of the robust Results Management and Adjudication process

Yesterday, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a Notice regarding meldonium to its stakeholders that are primarily signatories to the World Anti-Doping Code (Code). The Notice provides clarification regarding its inclusion on the Prohibited List; existing excretion studies and those that are underway; as well as guidance regarding the Results Management and Adjudication process.

“There is no doubt as to the status of meldonium as a prohibited substance,” said WADA President, Sir Craig Reedie. “There is equally no doubt that the principle of strict liability under the Code; as well as, the well established process for results management and adjudication prevail,” he continued.

“Since meldonium was prohibited on 1 January of this year, there have been 172 positive samples for the substance, for athletes across numerous countries and sports,” Reedie said.  “Concurrently, there has been a call by stakeholders for further clarification and guidance,” he continued.  “WADA recognizes this need — that meldonium is a particular substance, which has created an unprecedented situation and therefore warranted additional guidance for the anti-doping community.”

In keeping with the Code, an athlete remains wholly responsible for any prohibited substance found in their body.  In the event that a prohibited substance is detected, the onus in on the athlete to explain how the substance got into their body.

There is currently limited data available on excretion studies relating to meldonium; and, as such, several studies are currently being conducted involving WADA accredited laboratories, which WADA will share when available. Until such time, the Notice provides guidance as to how organizations should manage meldonium cases within their respective jurisdictions, which may be to ‘pursue’ or ‘stay’ until further excretion research has been made available.