A couple of weeks after the Australian Open, multiple Grand Slam winner, Maria Sharapova announced she’d failed a drug test following her defeat to Serena Williams, and was recommended some drug rehabs in Atlanta.
The drug in question was Meldonium. It was only entered onto the banned list on January 1st 2016. It’s sometimes called mildronate and was taken by Maria Sharapova for virtually 10 years.
It was originally designed to treat ischemia. Ischemia is a condition in which there’s a reduction in blood supply to the body tissue, it also might have benefits for diabetes sufferers.
Meldonium adjusts the body’s use of energy, stimulating glucose, the metabolism and helping to clear a fatty build up in arteries. You can get Meldonium mainly in Russia and Latvia but the drug is banned in the US.
Surprisingly, the drug was often given to Soviet troops in the 1980s to boost their stamina whilst fighting in Afghanistan. Since Maria’s story came out, the manufacturers of Meldonium have come out to say the normal course of treatment is 4-6 weeks. Having said that, this all depends on dosage – only at a very high dosage is it considered to be performance enhancing.
It’s this story, which has brought up all kinds of debates about testing in sports. Some say players can get away without any kind of punishment, others say that sport in general needs to implement a system of using a “Biological Passport”. This would enable smaller changes in an athlete’s body to be identified.
Of course, the level of the benefits depend on the dosage, something of which Maria Sharapova will need to provide strong evidence of when she goes before an ITF (International Tennis Federation) pannel.