Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova announced on Monday that she had failed a drug test at this year’s Australian Open after testing positive for Meldonium, a drug that was banned this year on January 1.
Sharapova confirmed that she has been using Meldonium for 10 years for a health issue but failed to say what the issue was.
WADA Statement regarding Maria Sharapova Case: https://t.co/OW3kx05Q3X
— WADA (@wada_ama) March 7, 2016
The big question is – what is Meldonium used for and why is it banned?
Meldonium was developed at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis to help prevent ischemia (an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body, especially the heart muscles that often results in heart failure).
It is mainly used in Eastern European countries to aid oxygen circulation for people with serious heart conditions.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Meldonium is also used to treat brain circulation disorders and improves the user’s mood and makes them more active. “They become more active, their motor dysfunction decreases, and asthenia, dizziness and nausea become less pronounced,” it said.
Even though Meldonium is generally used for people with chronic heart failure, it benefits healthy athletes by increasing their endurance and performance by increasing oxygen uptake to give an advantage over non-users.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) added Meldonium to their list of banned substances on January 1.
Sharapova is not the only sportsperson to be tested positive for Meldonium.
Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov, Ukraine biathletes Olga Abramova and Artem Tyshchenko, Russian Olympic gold medallist figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, Ethiopia athletes Abeba Aregawi and Endeshaw Negesse all tested positive.
According to WADA president Craig Reedie athletes that have tested positive for Meldoniumn get a one-year suspension from participating in sport.